13 Sept 2013

Broad Beans - Top of the Pods

Picked beans

The weekend before last, during a big garden tidy up, the last of the dried broad bean pods were cut for seed and the plants dug up and added to the compost. It's been a strange year for broad beans as they're usually cleared well before now but I was harvesting beans until end of July (maybe I sowed later) and there's even a couple of plants that are resprouting having been earlier hacked in half by kids playing sword-fighting with my canes. (Grrr.) This year I grew two varieties of broad bean; the Karmazyn beans from last year and a crimson flowered heritage bean for colour.

Shelled beans

cooked and peeled
Heritage beans on left, Karmazyn on the right. 

Karmazyn is a variety with white flowers, green pods and pink beans. The beans are rounded, heart shaped and sit apart in the pod so there's usually no more than 4 or 5 to a pod. (The heritage pods are firmer and smaller.)  Once shelled and deskinned, the young Karmazyn beans are the most beautiful bright green. Last year's end of season pods contained inedible but useful beans that were dried and saved as seeds for this year and all germinated from an early March sowing.

I sow my broad beans in spring (rather than autumn) so when I bought some Heritage red flowering bean seeds earlier this year, I was still in time to sow those as well. I wanted to grow them alongside the Karmazyn to see if there's a difference, other than flower colour. There were subtle differences,  mainly in the taste, with the Karmazyn beans being sweeter and nuttier. (Some of my seeds were given to a friend working at the local City Farm and he agreed about the taste, finding it very pleasant.) The heritage crimson beans had a more pronounced bean flavour and were slightly harder and more floury in texture after cooking. As a recent convert to liking broad beans, I prefer the Karmazyn beans.

The plants all grew vigorously to the same height.  Karmazyn were slightly quicker off the mark but perhaps they'd adapted to my growing conditions as they were grown from saved seed.  A few of the crimson flowered beans didn't germinate whereas, like last year, the Karmazyn beans all grew. The flowers have been so beautiful:

White flowers for pink beans

Crimson heritage bean flowers

and, strangely, also from the crimson heritage beans, striped pink flowers ... lovely!

Pink striped bean flower

In 2012 the beans weren't troubled at all by black aphids; I put this down to the nasturtiums that I grew around the edge of the bed. This year, one or two plants were heavily invaded (temporarily, as I was on squish alert) despite some lovely Milkmaid nasturtiums appearing by their sides.


As the pods started to plump up, I pinched off all the tops so that the plants put their energy into the pods.  I steamed the tops with a few of the de-podded beans for supper -  they were delicious with just a trickle of butter and grinding of salt and pepper.  Well worth remembering for next time as I've composted the tops in the past.

I've managed to save a couple of large bags of parboiled beans for the freezer but I'm already looking forward to  next year's crop.  My Veg Planner advises that broad beans can be sown in October and November and then again in January.  I usually sow in early spring, i.e. late Feb/early March, but this year, I'll give an autumn sowing a go, protect the seedlings over winter with cloche protection, and see if that makes for an early harvest next year.

Broad beans 25th June
My little patch of broad beans in June this year.

11 Sept 2013

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

My flowering veg patch

This was my veg patch a couple of weeks ago at the end of August.  Sun shining, bees buzzing ... it felt like the best of summer as I walked around picking fresh raspberries and tomatoes.  Crouching by the low wall around the central veg patch bed, this view looks more like a cottage garden - you'd never suspect that I was standing in a sea of concrete paving slabs and overlooked by about 50 flats, would you?

With the weather having become suddenly autumnal over the last few days, I wanted to post this photo as a reminder of one of summer's peaceful golden moments.  It will also remind me that, in spite of feeling that I hadn't achieved much this year, this part of the garden flourished with herbs, rhubarb, raspberries, sweet corn, mountain spinach (orach), beans, nasturtiums (red, white, orange), phlox and echinacea. There's also five varieties of tomato, a forest of sunflowers and a cabbage growing to the right in there.

I think the weather is set to stay gloomy for a while but I'm hoping that we're due a little more summer after the long wait for spring to arrive earlier this year .

7 Sept 2013

The eyes have it

Harvest crop

Earlier this year I wrote about my day out at the Garden Museum's Potato Day and which spuds I'd chosen to grow. (Arran Victory, Foremost, Vitelotte, Linzer Delikatess and Cherie.) This year I decided to grow my tubers in potato sacks as I'd tired of finding moochers (tubers left in the soil) popping up all over the place. (There's always one or two tiny potatoes that get left behind!)

Last week, I emptied all of my potato bags after a summer without sufficient water, either from rain or tap. A few of them hadn't even had sufficient depth as I didn't get round to earthing them all up in time.  (Shocking.) Even with my optimistic tendencies, I wasn't hopeful of finding anything usefully edible.

But what joy! Lots and lots of small to medium sized potatoes! Emptying potato sacks (or digging up potatoes) is a job I really delight in - it's a magical moment to find dozens of (hopefully) perfect potatoes where only one went in months before. I was watched by a two year old and, frankly, I couldn't have done better if I'd been Harry Potter himself. She stood transfixed and wide-eyed as I pulled one purple potato after another from the sack, only moving to gasp in amazement or silently mouth "Wow"! Love it!

One of the downsides to gardening in a community space is that the garden is at the mercy of whoever wanders by. I quickly realised that some mischievous tike had swopped all the potato labels over but I was able to identify them by referring back to my original post. The Arran Victory spuds were the easiest to spot being purple, with the Vitelotte potatoes a close second being almost black skinned with purple flesh.

To cook these little spuds, I simply boiled a selection of each one, throwing a knob of butter and sprinkling of salt over when drained. So, which potato won the taste test?  Arran Victory - the "rare blue-skinned, white-fleshed tuber of superb flavour". Never a truer word was said.

All of Pennard's descriptions were accurate and, undoubtedly, my little taste trial would have had truer results from well-watered plants but I found that the other varieties were nice but not outstanding. The Arran Victory had a flavour and creaminess that I haven't found in any shop bought varieties - and that's the qualifier that means I'll be looking out for these to grow exclusively next year. I don't have enough to know how well they'll store (as in, they'll all be eaten before the end of the week!! So delicious!) but next year I'll grow enough to last a good while longer.

Harvest trugHere's the fuller harvest picture, a sun-warmed tomato, a few physalis (tart but delicious) and a Braeburn apple.  The trees are loaded with fruit this year but I've noticed that people are picking the fruit already because they look so nice.  Surely they should still be on the tart side for a few more weeks? The two year old happily munched her way through two apples, declaring them to be yummy! I thought I'd better try one and ... hmm, and she's right! Apple pie ahoy!
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