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.