The biggest producer of broad beans is China, followed by Ethiopia and Australia. In the UK their main season runs from June till September. It’s a good opportunity to buy locally grown beans and be more sustainable. Broad beans belong into the legume family with chickpeas, lentils or peas and they are among those ancient plants cultivated by our ancestors more than 6000 BC.
Broad beans, also known as Fava beans or Faba beans are easy to grow. They are often used as a cover crop (to help to manage soil erosion, fertility and quality) after the spring and summer crop has been harvested. They are tough plants as they have high plant hardiness, which means they can withstand cold climates and difficult soils like clay.
Very young seeds can be eaten raw otherwise they require a bit more preparation compared to plants from the same botanical family like pea and chickpea.
If you buy fresh pods you will need to remove the seeds from their padded cushion-like pods first and then shortly cook (2 – 3 minutes) in boiling water. Their pale green outer skin can be tough and taste a bit bitter that’s why it’s good to peel it off (after cooking) and keep only the inner bright green, shiny and tender seed.
All this can be time-consuming and not ideal if you are in a rush to prepare a quick dinner but don’t give up on broad beans only because they require more work. They are an excellent source of plant protein, carbohydrates and fibre as well as many other minerals and vitamins like magnesium, iron and B vitamins to name a few.
Don’t think it has to be always you who does all the work. Let your children help and ask them to collect the beans from the pods. Once they cool down after cooking kids can peel/pinch of the outer grey wrinkly skin off too. This is one of those perfect tasks to give to the kids and involve them in the kitchen.
Broad beans are available to buy in a few forms. The best are fresh pods from a local farm, market or your supermarket (maybe not the freshest but certainly the best value for money). Another alternative is to buy frozen broad beans or broad beans in a can.
Store fresh beans in their pods in a dry place the best is to keep them in the fridge for a week (my experience). If you grow your own crop you can freeze the potted seeds. Blanch them shortly before putting them to the freezer and keep the outer leathery skin on it and it will prevent them from getting dry.