It is official. I do not like them here, I do not like them there. Not with a fox or in a box. Not in a tree and not even if they are free. Not roasted, grilled, fried or BBQ’ed. I do not like them. I do not like broad beans at all.
Every year I grow them. Every year I try them and then pass them on to my mate Steve. Steve loves broad beans. He doesn’t need to be in a box with a fox, he just gobbles them up. I’m not entirely sure why I grow them year after year. I enjoy planting them out in the autumn and watching them steadily grow over the cold winter months when nothing else seems to be moving at all. And they aren’t a tiny plant either. A large feature on my flat winter landscape that gets removed at about the same point that the tomatoes take over as the dominant feature on my summer vista.
I’m not all that keen on any beans, but I can tolerate a green bean and growing them for their dried bean for winter soups, stews and chillies has brought excitement back into my bean patch. I have a whole bed dedicated to something we don’t really like all that much! But the garden would somehow seem incomplete without them, and at the end of the day I am a creature of habit and to not sow beans just wouldn’t be right.
So the broad beans go in each autumn and the growth admired. The bees love them too. There isn’t much else to for them to flit about between at that time of year. So I feel good about my broad beans. I’m helping the poor bees. They need me to grow broad beans.
Then the little pods appear. I shudder at the thought. I’m gonna have to eat them or it would be a waste. I had heard they were nicer when they were smaller so I tentatively gathered a handful and that ended up in a stir fry with other fresh seasonal vegies like snow peas and spinach and a lovely Asian inspired sauce. The sauce went a long way to disguising the beans, but I knew they were lurking in there somewhere. I couldn’t make myself enjoy the meal so I chewed each mouthful the minimum number of times required to swallow without tasting or choking.
I plucked up courage again and decided to cook them with bacon in butter. You can’t go too wrong with bacon and butter. Anything can be made edible with this winning combination… except broad beans. I ate them, but under duress. How on earth do other people enjoy these things?
I had heard they were good in a pesto. They were bigger now, as it had taken a few weeks to get over the last attempt at liking them. I searched far and wide on the internet for the best pesto recipe that would assist with the disguising of the bean-ness. A lemon, garlic and mint recipe won. Good strong flavours that would mask the taste of the beans. It held a lot of promise and was whizzed up into a lovely bright green dip. The flavours all worked well together. All except the broad beans. They bought a special something to the dish that only broad beans can. I think I have ruined the crackers I ate them with, as now they are forever associated with a shudder inducing aftertaste. To give me credit I did eat the lot, because no one else would and I do hate waste… even if it did take a couple of days to get it down.
It was suggested to me to try them Portuguese style with cinnamon and allspice, onion, garlic and tomato. I had never cooked Portuguese before and found the flavours intriguing, but is was spoilt ever so slightly by the green lumps floating in its midst. Hunger drove me to eat it up, but I didn’t really enjoy it. Maybe with diced chicken it would be lovely.
There was nothing else for it. The flowers had long since stopped appearing and the leaves were tired and yellowing and were really taking a hammering from the weather so I decided to pull the plants out. It was done with mixed emotion, I was glad not to be faced with my vegetable nemesis again, but yet I felt a degree of sadness – I tried my hardest but still couldn’t like them. I ended up with a large pile of beans that would be completely wasted if I’d popped them in the freezer and was concerned it may be too many for my friend Steve so I said to a friend who was here, “do you like broad beans” and I was halfway through asking “would you like some…” when I was cut off with a resolute “NO!” She said they were too furry for her.
That is what is wrong with them – they are furry. They bring a taste and texture that can only be described as furry in a non-fluffy kind of way and it messes with my taste buds. This is why I don’t like them here, there or anywhere. They are furry.
But she gave me a window of hope – she suggested marinating them in vinegar with sugar in it as this was supposed to take away the fuzz. So I reached into the bag destined for Steve and grabbed the last handful of fat oversized pods and slipped the beans from their furry casing and steamed them to a soft state. Then into the sweet vinegar solution for an hour.
And my verdict… Not too bad…. Not something I would be able to eat loads of, but I didn’t shudder as I swallowed. Not too bad.
So will we see broad beans in my garden again next season? Most likely, but for the bees, of course.
Come again soon – my garden needs to be prepared for the festive neglect that comes from having Christmas smack bang in the middle of my growing season.
Sarah the Gardener : o )