Monday, 29 July 2013

Broad Bean Bumper Crop

Broad beans as they stood
before the storms
The couple of storms we've had of late (most welcome they were too) half flattened the broad beans, so I decided that today we would harvest them all.
I have grown two varieties this year. Neither of them did I attempt to overwinter, for we have got down to 16 below during each of the last two winters. Not only that, but the ground at the end of last year was completely waterlogged. But come spring, broad beans are always one of the first crops in the ground.

Sue busy podding beans

The Aquadulces I bought for 10p a packet late last year from QD. They have grown well, though not so tall or so prolific as the Bunyard's Exhibition, a variety which came in a multipack of beans from a pound shop!

Tall isn't necessarily a good thing though, especially in such an exposed location as out here on The Fens, but I have always found that shorter plants give shorter pods too.

Some of the Aquadulces had strange black marks on the outside of the pods and some had gone even further, completely black at one end and split open. The culprit seemed to be small caterpillars which had got inside. This has left me befuddled as I can find no reference to this on the interweb. I've had problems with Pea Moth caterpillars in my peas, but I don't think these are supposed to attack Broad Beans.
What's more, it only seems to be the Aquadulces which are affected.

So all the more reason to harvest them all before the crop took heavier losses.
Any which were infested I fed to the chickens, who turned their noses up at them. I seem to remember the chooks not being keen on broad beans last year. So I tried the pigs, with the same result unless I podded the beans for them. Clearly they were not keen on eating the furry pods. Not surprising until you consider that even banana skins are considered a delicacy by Daisy and her daughters.

At least the compost heap would appreciate all the greenery. I was careful to leave the roots in the ground though. The small nodules which fix the nitrogen in leguminous plants were clearly visible and will be dug in to nourish the soil for the brassicas which will follow on in the rotation next year.

Once we had two baskets overflowing with beans, I decided to leave a few plants standing (and staked) so that I could collect the seed for next year, as long as the caterpillars don't get to them all. After all, I may be not be lucky enough to get them for 10p again.

some of today's other harvest
French beans, Yardlong beans, turnips and beetroots 

I left the Bunyard's Exhibition for another day, as these plants, despite their extra height, had withstood the battering from the storms and were looking much healthier.

I'll have to perform a proper taste test. If, as I suspect, there's not much discernible difference, then at least on this year's performance it'll be the Bunyard's seeds I'll be saving and not the Aquadulces. Of course, there's a strong possibility that they will have cross-pollinated as they were grown in the same bed, so I could well end up growing Bunyardulces anyway!

And finally, Sue has insisted that I point out that she does not always dress so skankily as in the photo above. It's just that she's been doing lots of this...

and this...

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