Hardy and sturdy, thick stemmed, with glossy leaves, growing about 3 ft. high, the broad bean gives a heavy crop – though not of long duration – in deeply dug and rich soil. The ground needs special preparation if dry or poor.
The thick, fleshy pods, with white, fluffy lining, follow black-spotted white fragrant flowers. The pods are not edible, the crop being grown for the white or green seeds.
The two main classes are known as Longpods and Windsors. Varieties in the first class give earlier crops. Windsors (broad and short pods, containing fewer beans than the long-podded kinds) are sown to extend the season. Seedsmen have their own names for several varieties, including: –
Longpod varieties, white seeded: Mammoth Longpod and Giant Seville Longpod, for late October to November sowing for early crop, and Prolific Longpod for February (maincrop) sowing; green seeded: Green Longpod and Dwarf Green Gem, the latter about 12 in. high, both for maincrop.
Windsor varieties, white seeded: Mammoth Windsor, Broad Windsor; green seeded, Green Windsor.
About 200 seeds go to the pint, and they germinate in about fourteen days.
Ready for Use.
Sown February to March, ready for gathering in July. Autumn-sown early Longpod varieties are ready about ten days earlier than spring sown.
An open position, and rather heavy soil deeply dug and enriched with manure or rotted greenstuff, is ideal for the main crop. A shut-in position, as between close fences, is not favourable; it results in weakly growth, and the crop is generally ruined by the devastating black fly. Deep and generous soil preparation is essential if the ground is dry or poor.
For an autumn-sown crop the soil must be light and well-drained, sheltered from cold winds and (preferably) sloping to the south; heavy, wet soil is quite unsuitable.
When and How to Sow.
Late October or early November for the autumn sowing, but only when the ground is reasonably dry. With the spade take out drills 9 in. wide and 2 in. deep and 2 ft. apart, running north and south if possible. Space out the seed 4 in. apart, in two lines, along the drill bottom; the two lines to be separated by the width of the drill; the seeds in one line to be placed opposite the 4-in. spaces of the twin line. The result is double rows, 2 ft. apart.
This sowing should give pods for picking ten days or so in advance of the February to March sown broad beans. An even more important advantage is that the October to November sown plants usually escape the attentions of black fly because the growth, being more advanced, is more resistant to attack. In the event of hard winter weather, dry bracken, or straw, placed loosely over the young plants whilst the danger period lasts, will prevent disaster.
The Main Crop.
For the main crop a fully exposed piece of ground is chosen. Sot/ in February or March (or in both months, to get a succession of crops) in 9 in. wide drills 3 in. deep, in double lines as advised for autumn sowing, but spacing the seed 6 in. apart and allowing about 2 J ft. between the double rows.
If the ground for this spring sowing is light in nature, make the drills 6 in. deep but cover the seeds only 3 in. deep; that leaves a 3-in. channel above for receiving water when the plants need it. Also, water the drills before sowing if the soil happens to be dry then; and it will assist the seedlings to make an earlier appearance if the seeds are soaked in cold water for a few hours before being sown. Note that this applies only to light soil in dry weather.
In all cases it is advisable to sow a few extra seeds a couple of inches apart in an odd group for transplanting into any blank spaces that may occur in the rows.
Sowing in Boxes.
Wet ground or very cold weather may delay outdoor sowing; in which case time is saved by sowing in shallow boxes filled with good soil and sheltering the boxes in a cold frame or greenhouse. Space the seed 2 in. apart and 1 in. deep. As soon as it becomes possible to plant out, remove the young plants with a trowel and transfer to the prepared rows.
Time is also gained by sowing in boxes in January one or more of the early Longpod varieties.
Before planting out, the soil in the boxes should be watered well, and the outdoor positions watered beforehand if soil is light and dry.
If there is much wind and the ground is light the plants may need to be supported when about 2 ft. high, by means of stakes driven in at each end of each double row, with string passing from end to end. It may be necessary to give additional stakes at intervals of 12 ft. or 15 ft.
Support, and additional covering for the roots, can be given in heavy soil by earthing-up when the plants are about 9 in. high – soil being drawn up to the stems, with the hoc, to the height of 2 in. or 3 in.
Beware of one great enemy. Black fly can completely ruin a crop, infesting the pods as soon as these form and sucking all life out of them. The pest appears first on the tips of plants, forming packed black masses. The removal of the tips when plenty of bloom has formed, either before or after black fly has appeared, helps to beat the pest. Picked-off tips should be burned and the plants sprayed with a handful of soft soap dissolved in 2 gall, of hot water, plus a wine-glassful of paraffin; or with quassia and soft soap solution.
When seedling leaves are nibbled, this is the work of weevils. The remedy is Derris powder, or old (not fresh) soot scattered over the foliage.
Picking the Pods.
The crop will be greater and more prolonged if pods are picked young, and regularly. Also young beans make better eating than older ones.
For winter storage, the seeds (beans) can be dried by exposure to air and stored in bags or boxes anywhere under cover where they cannot be affected by either damp, frost or heat. For this purpose pods are ready for gathering when the tops of the plants have become black.
Preparing for Table.
Shell the beans from freshly gathered pods and place in boiling salted water, for cooking. Those dried for winter use should have boiling water poured over them and be allowed to soak for twelve hours before cooking.
Renowned for their food value, broad beans are more easily digested if the skins are removed before eating.