Broad beans are the only beans that are truly happy in our damp, cool climate; so much so that the first sowings can be made in late October to November, though a February sowing often produces a better crop and only a week or two later. The first flowers appear in April, releasing a gorgeous scent to draw in the few bees that are hardy enough to venture out.
Like many children, Riverford founder Guy dreaded the dry furriness of broad beans. In his middle years however, the smell of them makes his ‘heart skip a beat’, and at Riverford we look forward to their brief season.
When young and small, they are best raw in salads. Leave double-podding – a pleasing task but time-consuming – for later in the season when the beans are getting hard, pale and much larger. Double-podding reveals their verdant inner green and rids the sometimes bitter skins – eating them this way can be revolutionary and convert even the most stubborn of broad bean hater.
CRUSHED BROAD BEAN BRUSCHETTA
A delectable vegetarian springtime starter. Two lovely additions: spread your toasted bread with a little fresh ricotta before piling on the beans, or top the crushed beans with crispily fried pancetta or bacon lardons.
See full crushed broad bean bruschetta recipe.
GNOCCHI WITH COURGETTES, BROAD BEANS & PEAS
The gnocchi and courgettes cook fast, leaving you plenty of time to pod your peas and beans. Podding has a meditative quality to it. If it’s speed rather than enlightenment you’re after, split the pile in half and race someone. You can use the broad beans with their skins on, but if you have time it’s worth slipping them from their skins
MOROCCAN CARROT & BUCKWHEAT CRÊPES WITH BROAD BEAN SALAD
Moroccan spices go well with carrots, and other roots for that matter. We’re using toasted buckwheat, aka kasha, as the filling for the crêpes alongside the veg and spices. It’s a gluten-free seed with a nutty flavour, a great source of protein, fibre and other nutrients. Following the theme, we’re also using buckwheat flour, which is used in traditional French-style crêpes. It gives the crêpes a slightly darker colour.
BROAD BEAN DIP
Eat as a dip with slices of pitta or salady bits, or use as a sandwich filler. A healthy green alternative to the usual chickpea hummus. This is a good way to use up older, larger beans, but make sure you double pod them before puréeing. It’s worth finishing with some good olive oil.
See full broad bean dip recipe.
BROAD BEAN FRITTERS
These simple fritters make a good vegetarian main course but you could also serve smaller ones as starters or canapés for a summer party (they can be made in advance and gently warmed through in a low oven). Kids generally love them, particularly the dinky-sized ones.
See full broad bean fritters recipe.