Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B Is For Beans


I started the day in the garden doing the day's harvest, which included a bowl of fresh, immature beans.

Beans, rape(greens), purple basil, zucchini from late crop, green chilli & pumpkin

I like to start picking beans when they are young like that because the flesh is really tasty, especially when steamed and seasoned with a bit of salt, black pepper and margarine/butter/olive oil.

I personally feel that beans get a bad rep. For some people, the concept of eating rice and beans implies being broke, poverty or a lack of choice. Unless you're vegetarian or vegan or from a country where beans are a staple, of course. Then they're just delicious food.

In our household, beans are one of our main staple foods (not a cultural thing; just what we like). We eat them with at least four main meals a week and as a quick addition to snacks.

I used to buy most of mine dry and some in cans, but last year I started planting a bigger crop so I can buy less.

Lots of bean bushes around
 I also grow them in my ornamental garden. BTW, even if you don't like eating beans, you should grow them if you have the space. Your soil loves them, as they give it nitrogen which is very nutritious for the rest of your plants. Just dig them out when they are about to flower and mix them up with your soil.

According to my planting calendar, April is a good month to plant broad beans/fava beans. This is my second batch of beans, with the first batch planted last month (see pic below)

How to grow broad beans (fava beans)

Young broad/fava beans almost ready to be staked
Where: Broad beans grow best in a sunny area but sheltered from winds. They do well in well-drained soil that holds water well. My soil is mostly red clay, generally fed  cow manure and home-made compost and they seem to do well enough with that.

The  Planting Process:  I usually prepare the soil by adding compost and watering it thoroughly a couple of days before I plant. However, once I've sowed broad beans, I don't water the soil for at least 10 days, as the seeds are very prone to rot.

As it's Autumn, I'm choosing a variety that's appropriate for planting at this time. I'm told there is another variety that's suitable for planting in windy area.

Make sure that there is a good proportion of space between the plants. Broad beans grow very big, so they need to be able to space out OK. Also remember that airflow is essential for ensuring your beans don't catch fungal disease.

In line with this, your seeds should be sown 5cm (2inches) deep and 20cm (8inches) apart. Dwarf varieties of broad beans can be sown 15cm (6in) apart. Broad beans are best sown in double rows, with the rows 20cm (8inches) apart. If a second double row is needed this should be positioned 60cm (2feet) away from the first. Sow a few extra seeds at the end of the rows to fill in any gaps produced by seeds that don’t germinate.

Caring for broad beans: I've found that broad beans sprout very easily and don't need a lot of care once the seedlings are established.  You do however need to remove the tips of the two leaves attached to the small seedling as soon as they show up, to make sure that Blackfly does not damage the plant later.

I've been lucky so far, in that, I haven't had a Blackfly problem, even when I didn't know I was supposed to punch out the bean seedlings. Now I just do it as a preventive measure. I usually steam the baby leaves I've cut out, sprinkle them with a bit of salt and a teaspoon of olive oil and voila, we have a nice additional veggie dish.

Stake the plants once the seedlings have grown a bit, to prevent the fragile stems from bending or breaking and pods being damaged. I usually just use a couple of sticks to stake mine, though I know I should look into making something stronger. The plants need plenty of water when they are in flower though.
Harvesting broad beans: I've found I can pick pods when they are 7.5cm (3in) long and cook them whole (ja, I'm back to stealing immature crops!). Around 25 weeks, you can start picking pods to shell. Make sure you pick the beans while the scar on the bean is still white or green. Once it grows black, the beans will be very tough to eat.

Serving suggestions:

My favourite recipe for broad beans is chickpea and bean dal with caraway potatoes. I got the recipe from the Food Lovers One Pot, published by Trans Atlantic Press, recipes selected by Marika Kucerova.

Of course I adapt it to suit me based on the availability of ingredients. For example, I usually use canned chickpeas rather than dry, and may exclude some of the seeds if I don't have them on hand.

Ingredients:

2 and 1/4 cups or 400g chickpeas  (same size as a 400g can)
2 and 1/4 cups broad beans
2 cloves garlic
2 onions
2 green chillies
2tbsp butter or oil or margarine
3 cups vegetable broth/stock
1tsp freshly grated ginger (sometimes I just use the powder)
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 and 3/4 pounds(800g) potatoes
1tsp caraway seeds
1handful spinach leaves
salt and pepper for taste

Method:

1. Soak chickpeas and broad beans in water overnight and drain.
2. Peel and finely chop the garlic and onion. Cut the chillies in half.
3. Saute the onions and garlic in hot butter /oil /margarine in a saucepan, then pour vegetable stock.
4. Add the chickpeas, broad beans, chilies, ginger and crushed coriander seeds. Cover and simmer gently for 50-60 minutes.
5. Peel the potatoes and boil them with caraway seeds for around 25 minutes.
6. Wash the spinach and add to the add to the dal at the last moment, then season with salt and pepper.
7. Drain the potatoes and serve them on plates, add dal and serve.

49 comments:

  1. I am going to love your gardening posts as we are just starting Spring now! I saw your post on Kiwanos... my daughter and I grew those a few years ago. She loved them and they were definitely the most interesting vegetable we had ever grown.
    Happy A to Z-ing!
    Nancy at Hungry Enough To Eat Six

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    1. Glad you're enjoying the posts. After the April madness, I'd be curious to know how you and your daughter served them, if you're willing to share. Thanks.

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  2. Bookmarking this for later reference. What a detailed description of beans and how to grow and care for them. Well done, Damaria :)

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  3. This looks like something I can try!!! Beans are my mom's favorite. I will bookmark this!

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  4. That is quite an exhaustive post on something like beans. I am going to try that recipe for sure.

    Ishithaa
    #AtoZChallenge

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    1. LOL! Sorry it's loooong:-) I just started writing and couldn't seem to finish, and I hoped it was useful info.

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  5. Thank you for the recipe. Would try that one day :) I like making mix vegetable curry of beans, potatoes and carrots.

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    1. Those ingredients make an endless combination of deliciousness, yes?

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  6. i am not much in to beans.... as it's the much cooked veg in my place... But will definitely try out the recipe :)

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    1. My brother is sooo over beans too. So my younger SIL looks for ways to tempt him into one more dish of beans, as we're all trying to reduce our meat consumption. Good luck with this one.

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  7. Though beans is not on my top fav list, will try this one once :)

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    1. Ja, sometimes it can be overdone, hey? Good luck. I hope you enjoy this one at least.

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  8. I tasted broad/fava beans for the first time last summer, and am now determined to try growing them myself. My family always grow a lot of green beans for eating fresh, as they're a favourite, and last year I persuaded my parents to let me plant Jacob's Cattle beans, which are a lovely speckled white and burgundy often grown in the Canadian Maritimes. I think I like growing beans best for their beauty when dried ... I need to learn more ways to cook with dried beans, or else I'm going to end up with beautiful jars but no recipes.

    Do you grow scarlet runners as well? We sometimes grow those but it wasn't until last summer that I actually learned how to cook them properly. (String them, cut into small pieces, blanch.)

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    1. You do end up with colourful jars once they are dry, don't you? Beautiful. I've never grown scarlet runners before, but in time I want to grow as many varieties as possible and if I can find their seeds, I'd definitely include them. I looked them up online and they looked beautiful.

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  9. I LOVE green beans. My parents had a large garden and each of us kids was responsible for a section of it. I usually chose the carrots, but there wasn't much better than finding a pod of beans and munching on them while playing in the yard. Epic memories.

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    1. Sounds like it. Glad I reminded you of that for a moment:-)

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  10. As a vegetarian, I love green beans. And all other types of beans too. Thank you for the recipe! I will have to make it soon. :)

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  11. I love beans and for vegetarians they are an important part of the diet. Think I'll have beans for dinner.
    Hope its a good season for you>
    In the key of B

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  12. I grew up with beans in the garden, both at my paternal grandparents' house in rural Pennsylvania and later at my parents' smaller garden in Upstate New York. It's fun to pick the beans, even when there's a surplus.

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    1. I love that the nephews and nieces can pick them and munch anytime. And they do.

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  13. Was waiting for your post and am not surprised to see another informative one on growing plants. Thanks for sharing these knowledge.

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    1. I'm honoured you liked my posts that much. Thank you.

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  14. I don't think I've ever planted broad beans. I'll have to try that one of these years.

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    1. I hope you eventually do try them. I enjoy them.

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  15. mmmmm cannot wait for our beans, but wait! We cannot plant til late May...or at least not take them out of the greenhouse til then. Where do you live...lucky you to be able to harvest so early! Cheers- happy gardening!

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    1. I live in South Africa in a village called Phokeng in the North West province. Our winters are very mild, so we have a long growing season. Summer is the most difficult time to garden actually, because the heat can be scorching, temps going way beyond 100 degrees F. But the rest of the year is great growing time.

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  16. Thanks for the info! Happy gardening

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  17. Fabulous info on gardening AND cooking. Love your blog!

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  18. Wonderful! Glad we found your blog via the "A to Z" blog hop. Looking forward to more gardening tips too! We're just getting our garden ready after one of (what seemed like) the longest winters ever!

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    1. Hi Prudence
      I have a couple of blogger friends from Canada, and they are still "defrosting", so to speak. Sounds like the cold was just endless. I look forward to seeing you here and elsewhere.

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  19. I found you on the A to Z blog challenge. I love the look of your blog and will be following you. I started container gardening last year so I will be coming back to your blog to do some catch up reading on those topics. Cheers! ~ susan
    www.freezerburned-suddenlysusan.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Susan
      I hope to learn a bit from your adventures with container gardening, as I haven't done much of that.

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  20. Excellent tips! While living in Central America I learned to love beans!

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  21. Hi Damaria .. I do miss having a garden .. when I was in SA I loved visiting my aunt's sister and her hubby as they always had extra veg .. which they generously shared - and broad beans in particular are a favourite of mine .. while here we have Runner Beans - more particular to England ... the recipe sounds delicious too .. cheers Hilary

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    1. I think that's part of the joy of gardening, Hilary, having some extra produce to share with family. Good luck with the recipe.

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  22. Damaria what a fabulous idea - I have been focused on growing green leafy veggies because they suit the climate here - but beans would be a wonderful addition to the garden - thanks for the tip tips :) Reflex Reactions

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    1. My pleasure:-)

      I hope they grow well for you.

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  23. We live in an apartment building, Damaria, so there's not much chance of growing veggies. I do love my beans. We get at least three varieties here - French beans, cluster beans and broad beans and I love them all. Do you use coconut at all in your cooking? A little scrapping of that tastes fab with the preparation I make.

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    1. No, haven't used coconut much in my cooking. Some canned coconut milk when I do a curry or something or dry flakes when baking, but that's it. Should try it some time:-)

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  24. I love beans. You have an awesome blog: chock full of information and tips! I'm really looking forward to reading your alphabet posts!

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  25. Pleased to meet you angelsbark. Thank you for the compliment. I hope you enjoy your visit here.

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