are broad beans worth growing

Maximising My Space: Are Broad Beans Worth Growing?

Nothing focuses the mind on what you really want to grow than limited space, and I’m just not sure broad beans give me the bang for the buck I really need, both in terms of cash and taste.

I’ve dedicated an area approximately 2ft x 6ft to broad beans. Despite initial problems and my stupid planting time, they’ve grown into handsome plants. The trouble is, once shelled, this area has only provided me with a bagful of pods so far. Going by the shop prices, that’s maybe only £2.50 worth of beans.

On my allotment, this stuff didn’t matter. In fact, I saw bare soil as a crime for me. I could be growing something in there, even if it only saved me a pound. The plants saved me more money than an empty patch of the earth did.

Mangetout versus Broad Beans
Now I’m in the garden, this is really relevant. I can’t have any passengers. To contrast, a 3ft x 3ft space has yielded well over a kilogram of wigwam-trained mangetout, and I’m still picking. To date, I’ve harvested 1100g of mangetout, the equivalent of over £8 in the shops.

Blackfly and Broadie Reliability
Then there’s the blackfly. I grow my broad beans in Spring, which I’ve read makes them more susceptible to the pest than Autumn sown plants. This makes sense as I always get blackflies. I’ve spent many an evening this summer spraying the horrible little things off the stems with soapy water, which although buying the plants time, has yet to completely cure the problem.

I could try sowing in Autumn and overwintering, or I could put in something more reliable instead, like French beans. They’d be coming into season soon, would replace the mangetout and beans, and the inevitable surplus is easily frozen for Winter. And I’ve never failed with this vegetable, so I’m confident growing it.

Maximising the Space Available with Veg You Eat Regularly
If I ever needed a reminder that growing your own is about maximising the space available with the veg that you eat regularly, then broad beans have provided it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike broad beans. For me, mashing up a bowl of parboiled beans with feta, mint, and olive oil, and then spreading on toast has become an annual celebration of Spring, like rhubarb crumble ice cream and elderflower cordial. However, aside from this, we don’t cook much with them, and they don’t tickle my tastebuds like other veg I could grow in the space.

Maybe there lies the key: just growing enough for what we want. We eat loads of chard and beetroot. I’d like French beans all year, so I grow plenty to freeze. Perhaps the future’s about growing just enough broadies for the minty toast topping and filling the vacated space with something more aligned to our needs.

10 thoughts on “Maximising My Space: Are Broad Beans Worth Growing?”

  1. Interestingly I think the same argument can e applied if you’re limited on time rather than space. If you only have a couple hours a week to weed, water and maintain then energy is always better focused on the high value crops that you love.

    I like the idea of anticipating a few favourite meals and growing bespoke selections to supply.

  2. Paddy - @themerrypig

    Bass Guru, Veg Guru, Jono, Mr Stevens, Sir,
    What is this!! Feel personally insulted as the Broad Bean is my favourite veg! Whist I get the argument, feel we’re looking at this too clinically! Real Men Sow for pleasure as well as to be cavemen and feed our families! They freeze well are versatile and despite black fly are pretty hardy. The only downside is the pigs don’t like the plants once they’re pulled up unlike everything else. May have to start a rival blog, Real Men Pod! See you soon, you tried using the Broad bean mash as a stuffing for say a rolled leg of Lamb? You heard it here first.

  3. I always grow broad beans and get a good harvest. I look at it as a payday for killing the blackfly. I used soapy water last year but the plants still suffered so this year I am down to fingers and thumbs to squish and scrape!

    I have never looked at Autumn planting for them, may have to investigate!

  4. This raises an interesting question for me as I’m now in the same place as you, no lottie and smaller garden, and I adore broad beans and can eat lots of them. And fresh broad beans in the shops aren’t as good as broad beans just picked and cooked 30 mins ago.

    In the past I’ve had problems with Blackfly with autumn sowings too, though not so bad as the spring sowing ones. I think, like you, that I’ll have to just sow a few for the once a year treat, and allot the space to more bang for your buck veg. Mangetout is a good idea – thanks for that Jono!

  5. Hey everyone, thanks for the comments and sorry for the belated reply.

    Paddy – I hadn’t thought of the broad beans smash with the lamb, but it sounds like it would work. You’re right though, I do sow for pleasure, but I do like a plan and a spreadsheet too!

    Have you tried the pigs on perpetual spinach? Dead easy to grow, cut and come again, lasts months.

    Julieanne – if you love broadies you should definitely grow them. Is there anything you don’t like that you could use the space for?

    I’m considering whipping out my gooseberry bushes next year. Neither me or Ailsa are that keen on them, and they take up a lot of space. Its only really the jam I like.

  6. Although I find broad beans hopelessly unproductive, I can never resist growing a few as they are my favourite veg – and growing your own is the only way to get the small ones that are perfect to eat pod and all.
    Blackfly tip: I recently heard that late sowings (ie June) of broad beans are a good way to avoid blackfly. Haven’t tried it myself but it sort of makes sense. Anyone else tried it?

  7. Something I tried this year was broad beans (The Sutton, dwarf ones) in hanging baskets.
    So far I’ve not had any pests manage to get them and they have cropped very well.
    They looked great when in flower and coped with the cold start to spring. Fingers crossed I can follow them up with some dwarf french beans for a harvest this year (if I had autumn/winter planted the broad beans they would be in by now).
    I did find however my ground level broad beans weren’t really worth the space. Out of 6 plants 3 got blackfly badly and the resulting crop all of them was less then 1/3 of the crop of single hanging basket plant.

  8. Hey Joseph, that’s brilliant, thank you. I’m definitely going to try that, it solves all my problems. 🙂

  9. All things considered, growing broad beans just doesn’t seem to be worth all the effort! Maybe it’s because of climate change, as I remember as a child they grew so easily, we got bored with them. Perhaps I’ll have one last go and try sowing them now in June!

    1. Yes I remember, the odd bean that fell onto the soil in June seem to sprout so easily and would have been a plant in no time if left alone

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