See what I grew from a handful of bean seeds – four pounds of shelled Field Beans from one square metre of raised bed (excuse the mixed metrification). For those of you who do not care for Broad Beans, these are their much smaller, juicier cousins, although they are all known as Vicia faba, faba or fava beans.
They are one of the oldest Old World vegetables, their remains found on ancient Neolithic settlements in the Near East, where their cultivation probably originated some 8,000 years ago. From there they spread across Western Europe and North Africa. Today, of course, they are perhaps best known as a staple of Egyptian cooking, the dried and rehydrated beans forming the basis of falafel.
I use them to make soup, or refried beans or a bean version of guacamole which is surprisingly convincing. Otherwise we just eat them steamed with melted butter and chopped parsley, or add them to a green salad with a vinaigrette dressing .
In the UK this small-beaned cultivar is usually grown as a green manure, or as animal fodder. As green manure it is good for breaking up heavy, clay soils. The seed is sown in autumn (September to November). The plants will germinate quite quickly, and are left to over-winter. In spring, once they have shot up to about half a metre or 2 feet, and before it flowers, you are supposed to dig them in. By then the roots will be quite deep, and they also have the added benefit of fixing nitrogen. A good follow-on crop would be cabbages or broccoli, or any brassicas.
I prefer to grow mine to eat. Not only that, they have wonderful flowers that waft their scent over the allotment in late spring and get the bees very excited. The plants require no attention. Slugs don’t care for them. I grow them in blocks which tends to make them self-supporting, so I don’t add string supports as you need to for broad beans. I don’t feed them or even water them, not even in our increasingly arid springs. I do, however, pick off all their growing tips at the end of May to discourage black fly invasions.
Growing Field Beans to eat seems to me like a win-win-win situation. They feed me and He Who Is Presently Building A Shed; they feed the bees; they feed the soil. They also freeze well, and there will be enough to dry to sow in autumn for next year’s crop. And then there’s all the top growth to add to the compost heaps. You may perhaps have noticed the bean weevil damage on the leaves. It is one of many endemic pests at the allotment, but their nibbling doesn’t seem to affect the crop. So now please conjure the sweet, subtle fragrance of bean flowers. There is no scent quite like it. Aaaaah…magic beans!
Copyright 2017 Tish Farrell
Please pop over to Debbie’s place at Travel With Intent. She’s currently hosting 6WS
Up at the allotment the strawberries are cropping like crazy. Two weeks in (and despite having only a new, and quite small bed) we are a bit overwhelmed. We’ve already been sharing big bowls full with the neighbours. Fortunately said neighbours say they are more than happy to relieve us of the ‘problem’. But I can see that jam making might have to happen next, although today it’s far too hot to even contemplate standing over a pan of hot bubbling fruit. Maybe strawberry ice cream then. Now that’s more like it. I can stand over my little ice cream maker, and chill while all is creamily churning. Aaah…
We thought we’d make the most of the sunny day and popped over to Attingham Park at lunch time. Half the world had the same idea and the place was alive with happy families and happy dogs roving over the parkland. There were fallow deer to see, bluebell woods, trees burstingly green, stream banks golden with marsh marigolds, and in the walled garden’s frame-yard these very shouty tulips. My goodness but they had a lot to say for themselves.
Naturally I would have to say that nothing compares with the hazy woodland swathes of British bluebells; their slender spires gently nodding; the subtle fragrance that not quite like any other scent.
By contrast, the garden-escaping Spanish sort are much more upright and chunky, more like a skinny hyacinth. They have blue pollen too, or so the Woodland Trust site tells me. And it also says they are a big MENACE. People hate them in their gardens and so dig them up and dump them round the countryside, where they have relations with our native species, so changing them forever.
Without doubt, losing our native species would be a great a shame, but I still have time for the Spanish cousins that pop up around our garden. Admittedly I used to try to dig them up and compost them – until I learned that it was a pretty impossible task to excavate every part of them.
Now when they flower, I pick them. They make excellent house flowers, their bells opening wider and the blue fading over the days. They smell nice too. I’m thinking that cutting them off at the roots might also put a stop to fraternisation, and ultimately weaken the plant. In the meantime, I have the pleasure of them indoors.
Picking the native species is of course very much forbidden. But those of you who live in the UK will soon have the pleasure of spotting them in a wood near you. Reports have it that they will be flowering early this year.
Six Word Saturday Now pop over to Debbie’s for more SWS posts.
You simply can’t beat tulips for exuberance. They are presently bursting from pots and beds in my back garden – the result of a couple of cheap packs of bulbs from my local market stall bought back in the autumn.
I like the tulips that most resemble the wild forms – lily like, low-ish growing, and with several flower heads per bulb. These are one of the praestans varieties – possibly Bloemenlust. I threw the pack label away before pressing enter on the memory save button. Anyway, they are beautiful, whoever they are. And I especially love the way they throw their petals wide to catch the sun.
Six Word Saturday Please visit Debbie at Travel With Intent. She is the new host of SWS with the new rule of Six Words Only In The Title.
It had never occurred to me until last week that sheep might have opinions. Being brought up within the purlieus of a Cheshire farm and on a picture book diet that included many iterations of Little Bo Beep, I knew they could be wayward. Also a close confrontation with a lamb in my formative years was the source of one of my first big life lessons: disillusionment.
That is to say, it was the moment when I found out for myself that things aren’t always what they seem. This revelation was unexpectedly visited upon me around the age of two. I had tottered determinedly across the field near our house, intent on grabbing a lamb. I had not encountered one at close quarters before, and I was spurred on by a sense of eager expectation that I still recall. Capturing one took a little time, but oh, woe. Where was the warm, cuddly creature I had imagined it to be? What was this clammy, rubbery thing I had grasped so firmly by the neck ? I was not impressed, and quickly abandoned the enterprise, feeling very let down. There was also some inkling, for which I had no words at the time, that I had been somehow set up by my parents. Didn’t they know how lambs actually felt?
Then last Wednesday, after a good tramp around the Wenlock countryside the tables were turned: I found myself the object of ovine scrutiny. I stared back, fully expecting the sheep to shy away as they usually do, but no, it went on giving me ‘the look’. In fact it gave me the distinct impression it was not impressed by what it saw. I felt quite self-conscious. Hmph, I muttered. Who’d’ve thought it, being made to feel sheepish by a sheep; clearly more to them than meets the eye. And so followed another important, if belated life lesson, and one of the hardest to grasp: do not be quick to judge. Or even better, Mrs. Farrell: do not judge at all, lest the boot ends up on the other foot.
On the other hand, perhaps the Wenlock sheep somehow divined a closet lamb strangler when it saw one.
copyright 2017 Tish Farrell