Real Men Sow

The Problem With Broad Beans

Before I start, I should probably declare that I really like broad beans. They’re a very tasty vegetable which I enjoy growing. This isn’t an anti broadie post. There, that’s my disclaimer.

However, I have developed a broad bean prejudice that needs tackling. The problem with broad beans is that they’re so difficult to justify in limited space, but so tempting to sow at the same time. Being a plant that you can grow over winter as well as one of the first things to sow in a new year, they have a certain amount of excitement associated with them. Together we lap up the Spring conditions, and they grow into lovely, healthy plants.

But then this happens:


Not Much of a Harvest
You spend time protecting your plants through grotty winter weather, or delicately nurturing an early crop from an early sowing. The plants do well, and reward you with lots of fat pods, and with the great joy that accompanies any first harvest, you gleefully pick the beans.

And then you get home, fiddle around podding them, and you’re left with this. Just about enough for one meal between two. For all the space they’re occupying, that isn’t much of a return.

Don’t get me wrong, those little beans are delicious, but when you’ve spent the same length of time podding and preparing beans as you have to prepare the rest of a meal put together, and then you’re worrying you’ve even got enough to satisfy you both, you can’t help but question the broadie’s place on the plot.

Then this also happens:


I’ve never had a blackfly free broad bean crop, try as I might. I’m resigned to broadie blackfly now, and some years it feels like the fly appears before I’ve even had time to harvest any beans.

Once they’re here, the blackfly will take over within days. I’ve tried to prevent blackfly by regular checking the plants and squishing any off with hot soapy water and this has resisted them to a point, but the annual infestation is almost a foregone conclusion.

I Just Can’t Say No…
The knock on effect of this is the blackfly getting at other crops, like runner beans and courgettes. This beggars the question, are broad beans a bit of a liability? Growing something that yields poorly whilst also attracting a pest that could take out other more productive crops seems rather counter productive.

So every year I think quietly to myself that I’ll politely pass on the broad beans next year. Then October comes and I’ve got nothing to sow, except broad beans, sat there waiting patiently. ‘Sow me, sow me,’ they say. ‘We’re all you’ve got for months if you want that sowing hit…’

Sometimes I can put it off until January, but almost always the broadies win out and desperate for a sow, I put some in pots for Spring. I always tell myself that I’ll only sow a ‘few’ plants, yet that inevitably turns into a dozen or more. I just can’t help myself.

Therein lies the problem with broad beans. Saying no is hard to do on the allotment. :)


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  1. dickyJune 23, 2017 at 7:20 amReply

    blackfly has been awful this year, 2 major infestations despite soap spraying, a right pain!!

  2. Christopher BakerJuly 2, 2017 at 7:18 amReply

    You are being a little hard on the Broad Bean John. The plants are excellent soil conditioners as they fix nitrogen onto the soil and are used by many as green manure. So while you may deride the lack of product from the plant, the benefits to your plot make up for any shortfall. Have you tried growing the Sutton Dwarf Bean? Always a banker for me, takes up less space, less prone to blackfly too. Planted in March and ready mid to late June…

  3. HelleJuly 2, 2017 at 9:13 amReply

    Same here, we don’t have much space and the broad beans really don’t yield much, but what they do is just so delicious – and one cannot buy them anywhere. So I guess I’ll be growing a few again next year.

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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