Allotment staples

Potatoes, runner beans and broad beans (fava) – they are all quintessential British allotment staples. And here we are in July and I haven’t even mentioned Broad Beans. Remiss of me I know.

Usually by this time of year a mild desperation sets in. The word glut is bandied about. You swap recipes. You go home and flick through ALL your recipe books and the scraps of cuttings you retrieved from the weekend papers. The hunt is on for new and interesting recipes to deal with the glut of broad beans. There are usually piles left on the bench by the gate to the allotment – free to fellow allotmenteers to take.

And this year?

Think along the lines of renaming my allotment as ‘No glut ville’

My broad beans aren’t great. I need to work out what I’m doing wrong. I get broad beans but the plants aren’t big and fat and healthy like they should be. Alongside that they sometimes get rust type diseases. I think the answer is in direct sowing in autumn and then again early spring. But I need to look at what I dig into the soil, or maybe even what not to dig into the soil. Work out their companion plants – summer savoury is said to help ward off black fly. Time and trying different methods will eventually solve my broad bean puzzle.

Broad Beans have such a distinctive flavour – you are either in the broad bean camp or outside it. Get them young and small they don’t need the skins peeling off, cook and eat them simply – boiled or steamed for a few minutes in unsalted water, drained and then maybe a dash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, or maybe some chopped garlic or dill. I always think of broad beans and dill being perfect partners – they offset and compliment at the same time.

So the scant meals we are getting from them mean they are that bit more precious, to be savoured and thought through. And while I ponder my poor crop I’ll give you a lovely way to cook them – with cous cous. The recipe is from Stevie Parle of the River Cafe (and picked up by me from the Guardian) and he describes them as “Delicious as part of a larger mezze style lunch for a picnic, or as a starter, snack or eccentric breakfast (with less garlic and cumin perhaps) on its own.” Tempted? I hope so!

Cous cous with broad beans
Serves four

1 cup of fine cous cous
1 cup of small podded broad beans
1 clove of garlic – finely chopped and/or crushed
1 tsp cumin
4 tablespoons of yoghurt – I use a greek style yoghurt
2 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves ~ or if you prefer flat leaf parsley
Olive oil

  • Briefly boil the broad beans in unsalted water then place in a bowl with the couscous. Sprinkle with salt and a tablespoon of olive oil. Mix the couscous and beans to make sure everything is well coated in olive oil. Pour hot water over the mixture, just enough to cover and leave until the water is absorbed.
  • Dry roast the cumin in a heavy based pan until it turns a deeper shade of brown and the scent of cumin is tickling your nose.
  • Grind the cumin (in a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder), put them in a separate bowl and add the garlic and mix well. stir in the yoghurt and black pepper.
  • Mix the cous cous mixture with the seasoned yoghurt, check the seasoning and serve with a little olive oil.


  • I love this recipe. You know that we had a good year for Broad Beans (sorry!) and I still have some in the freezer. This is a new recipe for me so it will be fun to try it!

  • WOW! I love this broad beans and so healthy too, by the way I am sure you know the broad beans flowers too… Your recipe is so nice and also we eat them with yogurth too…, but much more with dried mint leaves and dills… Thank you dear Claire Love, nia

    • The flowers are small and pretty aren’t they Nia, and yes I love the way beans are prepared in Turkey, and you have reminded me about dried mint, such a lovely flavour with beans and yoghurt!

  • At least you have a few broad beans.. I find mine at the market, so who knows how fresh they’ll be? I bet someone reading this will have the answer for you!! xo

    • We’re enjoying them – they are just that bit more precious this year. And lyes et’s hope someone reading will come to the rescue…. pleeeaase !

  • You’ve done better than me – my broad beans have pretty much failed altogether this year! Thanks for the info on summer savoury as companion planting for them, I hadn’t heard that one before!

    • Hi Anne, the problem I have with the summer savoury is that it is sown a bit later than the beans so it doesn’t really get big enough before a harvest is due – a bit of a conundrum for me. So I need to do some more research to see if there are other plants that would help. And sorry to hear about your crop – this year is turning out to be distinctly odd!

  • Thanks for the tips on seasonings for broad beans: I shudder when I get them in the farm box (hasn’t happened yet this year) and nothing I’ve tried with them has been to my liking.

    • Nia mentioned the way a lot of Turkish beans are prepared – with yoghurt and dried mint, I don’t know if you’d like those…… I did say you are either in the love ’em or hate ’em camp 🙂

  • No sun, Claire, that’s the problem. Plus cool temps. We just had a downpour that stripped my roses of blossoms. I’m really tiring of all this now. At least the hosepipe ban is lifted, not that we need to water anything. 😦

    • Do you think that’s it? If so it’s time to emigrate !! Sorry to hear about your roses, we keep having very short sharp showers – absolutely torrential, and then the sun comes out and behaves as if it never rained.

  • What a lovely recipe, simple, seasonal and with spectacular flavor! Enjoy the fruits of your labors as each years harvest is different and rewarding it’s own way.

    • Absolutely Deb, every year is different! I’m wondering what will come of my winter squash – I do so hope we get some proper sun soon!! Hope you have a super week 🙂

  • Many of my friends from Canada and England talk about broad beans. Growing, cooking, and eating them, they speak of them with high recommendation, yet no one tells which variety they grow. I have decided to try growing them myself next year but will need to know which variety to try. So now I will be asking my friends about their favorites, and beginning with you! Claire?
    ~ Lynda

    • OK Lynda, here goes! I grow Aquadulce which are a classic for over wintering, planted in late Autumn they usually survive what winter can throw at them, or early Spring works well too. This year I’ve tried a couple of new (to me) varieties – Perla, (I bought them on a whim!) which have been very tasty – small dark green beans and have done well considering how wet and cool it is here.And you don’t have to peel tough skins off them which is a real bonus. And Grano Violetto – a purple broad bean from Italy, these have done badly for me, but it could just be a bad year for them so I will try them again and see.
      Hope this helps…… 🙂

      • Great, and thank you, Claire! I just did a bit of reading and was surprised by their ability to grow through the winter months. I will be ordering shortly and looking forward to a winter crop that won’t need a permanent covering. Perhaps it would be good to try a couple of the varieties then, so I can see which does better for me.
        ~ L

  • I have never tried cous cous with broad beans! Great idea! In Italy the season for broad beans is Spring so I have to wait till next year to get them.:-(

    • Ah yes your season would be much earlier than ours, although this year everything is very late! I like them simply with some pasta, oil, garlic and chilli too !

  • google – crazy beans riddles carl dagostino. You will enjoy. I am not trying to promote myself on your blog so delete this comment. I just wanted to make you aware of my beans thing.

  • I adore broad beans but similar to you, my grandparents constantly say they are very specific in growth location!
    I’m sure yours will be fine, you are a master gardener 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  • The weather must be doing bad things to allotments – mind you havent seen the usual media hysteria about food shortages this year – although yesterday a farmer was digging up some very soggy looking potatoes…

  • Cous Cous is a great idea w/ the beans…sorry you are havinga tough season, but you never know when things will turn around!

  • I know absolutely nothing about growing broad beans, so no help from this quarter…
    But this sounds like an infinitely adapatable couscous recipe…love your description of toasting the cumin – it’s perfect!

    • I love the smell o ftoasted cumin – so rich, warming and aromatic. And I reckon this dish would be good with things like runner beans too.

  • We can’t seem to grow broadbeans either, Claire, and when we do, no-one will eat them except me. 🙂 We have better luck with peas and beans, although we’ve got a rust problem happening with the latest crop of peas. Any advice? Thanks.. 🙂

    • Hi Celia, I’m really not sure of the causes of rust and more importantly how to stop it it does seem to stop or at least prohibit growth doesn’t it…..

  • I haven’t even bought any fava this year. None looked really fresh and I’ve not seen any at the farmers market, though I wasn’t really looking. Your recipe, Claire, sounds delicious, especially with the roasted cumin and yogurt. I think I should be a little more fava-conscious while at this week’s farmers market.

    • I hop eyou see some soon John, it’s quite a short season crop. But I think this recipe would work with Runner Beans as well (later on in summer). Happy hunting at th emarket !

  • sounds great claire, i will look back here when ours ripen at the end of winter, we freeze lots of the larger beans processed into a felafel mix (with parsley etc) after the big harvest, and it lasts right through summer …. do you do that too?

    • Broad Bean falafels are great aren’t they, much lighter and a superb way to use older beans. Delicious.
      I’ve never grown enough to freeze – they all get scoffed straight away. I freeze loads of peas and beans though 🙂

  • Broad beans…I’m wondering if I’ve ever had them. Are they called by another name as well? None in my garden, but the peas are about ready to pick.

  • I had about that many French filet beans. Never tried growing broad beans and I’m not sure I’ve even tasted them, but your recipe sounds great. I think this is a rough year for many gardeners.

  • We do really like favas here, but generally I don’t see them til a later at the produce stands. (Our summers start a bit late around here.) The way you’ve prepared them here looks delicious though, and maybe as much flavor as exists in a hefty fava bean is packed into these more petite ones! Maybe? Anyway, I do love your simple tasty prep on these and will try it!

    • Hi Spree, I’m sure there is plenty of flavour packed into the beans, its just that when they get older and bigger you sometimes end up having to peel th eskins off as they can be a bit tough. And I do hope you get to try the recipe – it’s so simple and tasty 🙂

  • I would think that your low yield would have something to do with all the rain and lack of sun. The recipe sounds great and next spring I can’t wait to try it when we get them in the markets.

    • I think the general lack of warmth and sun Karen has had a big impact, everything is a few weeks behind normal. a case of better late than never 🙂

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