Tuesday, May 13, 2008

DROOLING OVER THE BROAD BEANS

It's our first year growing our own, and among the very earliest crops are the Broad Beans. They're getting tantalisingly close to readiness now; we've split and shared a few pods already. The beans cushioned inside are about quarter of the size of my thumbnail - teeny weeny little greens with an amazingly intense broad-bean flavour, and soft as if they'd been cooked. I wouldn't compare them with peas because it's a more savoury sweetness, a bit like parmesan somehow.

they're surprisingly high-yielding, too (at least I think they will be) - we've planted two rows of 12ft (30cm apart); each small, dry bean has produced two or three sturdy stems which flourished in the early spring and are preparing to provide us with two dozen pods each, I should think. And so, if you have a little space in your garden, this is one of the first crops I'd recommend. Broad beans, being one of the earliest producers, have all the excitement that surrounds our first summer veg (asparagus and new potatoes being similar). And - I'm ahead of myself - but they're already delicious.

So yes: please find a space for some next year. Sown in autumn, they are spectacularly low-maintenance - they'd grown big enough to keep the weeds from growing underfoot in spring - and promise much.

I'm flipping through books for recipes, now, and have bookmarked Broad Bean Pilaf from 'Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East'. Think that Nigel Slater has a bean puree with flatbreads in The Kitchen Diaries, too. And Moro East will surely have something exciting for me to try. But I think these wonderful beans are best scantily adorned: maybe mashed with olive oil and wet garlic to spread on focaccia. Or, for this first harvest, perhaps we'll have a salad of just-steamed-and-shelled beans with freshly-cut Oriental Saladini and rocket. And guess what? We could even pull up some miniature potatoes, if we were feeling naughty. We accidentally discovered that they're already forming - even if they are pea-sized - and I am soooo tempted to sample them.

Photos coming very soon, really. I'm borrowing a cable this weekend, so prepare to be swamped with photographs of very clever little peas and gooseberry plants. They are my baby substitutes, but better, because I can alternate between having favourites.