Tag Archives: broad beans

Guy’s Newsletter: bumper crops, caterpillars & gleaners

We are picking the first of a fine crop of sweetcorn on our farm in France; six weeks ahead of the main UK crop and in time for your BBQs. Annoyingly you are in competition with the European corn borer, a moth which particularly favours maize and sweetcorn for nursing its young; the eggs hatch into a voracious caterpillar which feeds on the ripening cobs. The agri-tech solution would be to regularly spray insecticides, or to grow a GM variety where every cell of every plant continuously generates its own insecticide. Instead we use a minute wasp called Trichogramma which lays an egg inside the eggs of the corn borer, devouring the pest from within once it hatches. This is a well-proven system of biological control used for over 100 years, but it does rely on breeding and releasing enough wasps at just the right time; I suspect we were a little late. Where damage is not severe we will trim in the field; however the occasional cob is bound to slip through so please accept our apologies. One could say it is the price of insecticide-free food, but we’re happy to replace if you feel hard done by.

Nearby we have good crops of padron peppers and tomatillos, which will appear in most boxes over the summer. The padrons make a great snack when quickly pan-fried and salted; about one in five are mildly hot but it varies according to the plant, weather, maturity and where they are grown. Meanwhile tomatillos form the basis of many Mexican dishes, most particularly salsa verde; great with just about anything grilled or fried. There are some good recipes here.

At home we are coming to the end of a record breaking crop of broad beans; lots of spring sunshine helped the bees thoroughly pollinate the flowers which, coupled with just enough rain, has resulted in well-filled pods. We have upped the portions in your boxes (on us), and our veg men and ladies will carry some complimentary bags to give to those of you who are not beaned out, but even this will not shift the colossal harvest. According to the Old Testament’s Deuteronomic Code, we should leave part of the crop for widows, orphans and strangers; even after six years of austerity we don’t find many of them wandering the parish, so we have called in Gleaning Network UK to come and pick the remains for distribution to food banks and other charities.

Guy Watson

guy’s newsletter: the vegetable new year

Early summer is the vegetable new year: out with the old crops and in with the new. The ‘hungry gap’, when very little UK veg is ready for harvesting, is finally over and the new season is a wonderful time for vegboxes. Even after more than 25 years of growing vegetables, I am still excited by the first broad beans, courgettes, salads and homegrown fruit, including the very welcome arrival of gooseberries this week.

I was driven to planting an acre of these traditional British berries by memories of my mother’s gooseberry fool and by frustration at the lack of organic fruit grown in this country. A few people warned me of sawfly (a pest that attacks gooseberries in three waves of voracious larvae), predicting disaster without an arsenal of chemicals. There are always prophets of doom – they keep the chemical companies in business – so I carried on regardless. For the first three years the bushes were indeed stripped bare, but since then, nature has established a balance and we have a mystery predator keeping the larvae in check. There is much joy to be had from these tart-flavoured berries; fruit doesn’t have to be flown around the world to be interesting.

I could happily eat broad beans all month. The season started slowly, but now the spring-sown crops are going strong to see us through the next few weeks. Look out also for sweet, tender sugarsnap peas, which are just starting to arrive in the vegboxes. There’s no need to shell these; snap off the tops, pull the stringy bits off the sides and eat them pod and all. As well as simply steaming or stir frying, they are very good raw in salads, perhaps with a vinaigrette dressing.

As summer moves on, there are even more homegrown ingredients to inspire you in the kitchen, from a range of beans and spinach to British cherries, raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants. This is the time to keep cooking simple and light; these new season vegetables need very little cooking and no sauces. I even find myself getting irritable when people add butter to them; it seems almost disrespectful to their perfection. A man obsessed? At this time of year, perhaps.

guy’s newsletter: a bee boom & beans with inner beauty

Never have I heard such buzzing as I encountered cycling to work this morning. Stopping to investigate the din, I found myself under an avenue of lime trees in full blossom. Each tree was alive with what must have been hundreds of thousands of industrious bees harvesting the nectar for which the tree is famous. The wonderful spectacle was made all the more remarkable because, until a few weeks ago, there was a marked and almost eerie absence of these pollinators.

High summer is upon us and we are as busy as those bees and almost as organised. Farming has seemed like a mug’s game for the past two years, but it suddenly feels so easy in this weather. Planting, weeding, picking and irrigating is all going like clockwork, and our confidence in our ability as growers is restored. The farm reservoir levels are dropping but with good reserves of moisture in the ground, it will be a while before we worry about drought.

The one crop that has suffered a little is our autumn-sown broad beans, where a fungal disease called chocolate spot has developed faster on the pods than we would like. However, it is what’s inside that counts and as the beans within remain clean and flavourful, we have put them in the boxes rather than sending them off to feed the cows or ploughing the crop back in. It should not be for long though; we are now moving into the spring-planted beans which normally produce cleaner, better filled pods anyway. At the same time we are starting to harvest sugar snap peas. They are painfully slow to pick, even with this year’s fine crop, but the crisp sweetness makes them well worth the effort. For the uninitiated, prepare them by simply removing the stem end and perhaps the tip too (ideally taking the string from the pod with them) and eat the whole thing, pod and all. They are particularly great raw, in stir fries or quickly blanched and dressed, but my best tip is just to make sure that you try them, as the season is tantalisingly short.


Ed’s farm blog – duff plums and unseasonal veg

We have just about finished picking our plums and, like so many crops this year, the news is pretty disastrous. The trees were planted as saplings in March 2008 and have yet to reach their full potential; back in the spring things looked good but the rain knocked most of the blossom off and later in the season the trees dropped most of their fruit as they got overstressed. We picked over four tonnes last year and were expecting more (perhaps 6 tonnes) this year, but the final tally has come in at a mighty 427kg! Hearty portions of plum duff look to be thin on the ground in the Field Kitchen…


View across the fields

On a lighter note the remains of the Broad Beans that we harvested in June were rotovated in and the last of this years lettuce planted in their place. The few remaining bean pods have apparently decided it is now spring and we have miniature self-seeded plants poking their heads up amongst the Cos. I picked a few sprouting tips for Rob, our resident genius in the Field Kitchen, so if anyone is heading in that direction this week they may get some of the most unseasonal veg I have seen in a long time!


Broad beans mixed in with batavia and radicchio

What’s what in the box – 26th July 2010

This week Guy talks about spinach, broad beans, turnips and the rain we’ve had on the farm. 


what’s what in the box – 26th july 2010 

true spinach
This tends to be small leaved and succulent. We also grow spinach beet  and swiss chard and you can use them all in similar ways. 

True spinach can be washed and cooked as is but if you’re cooking swiss chard or spinach beet, pull the large stalks off. Wash it quickly and cook in a pan over a moderate heat with a lid on. 

After 2 or 3 minutes it will collapse on the bottom so you can then turn it over and cook again for another 2 or 3 minutes and then it’s done. 

When it’s finished cooking, put it in a colander and run some cold water over to refresh it. 

broad beans
We’re coming to the end of the broad bean season now but the later ones are usually better quality. If you have the time, you can boil them for 5 minutes then slip them out of the skins. 

These summer turnips are very succulent and sweet. It’s usually better to peel them and then you can roast them with carrots.

Broad beans on our farm in devon

Broad beans are now in season and are grown on our farm in Devon. These beans were drilled in the autumn from dry beans and picked in mid June.broad beans in the field

We sow some beans in Autumn and some in Spring. If the Winter is too cold, the Autumn sown crop doesn’t always survive and if it’s a wet spring, the later crop may drown.

In the early stages, the plants are covered with mesh to protect them from crows and other pests. After this, they don’t need a lot of attention.

Try cooking broad beans and adding them to roast artichokes and new potatoes. We’ve also got a recipe for broad bean and goat’s cheese omelette here.

what’s what in the Riverford box – 21st June 2010

Every week we’ll give you tips on using the difficult to use or less known veg in the boxes. This week, Kirsty talks about broad beans and pak choi.

what’s what in the Riverford box – 21st June 2010

broad beans

Broad beans have just come into season and they’ll be in the boxes now.

Keep them in the fridge and take them out of their pods when you need to use them. The easiest way to pod the beans is to put your nail in the side, run it down the side of the pod and pop the beans out.

To cook the beans, pop them in boiling water and blanch them for about 4 minutes. Once they’re cooked, take them out, leave them to cool and pop them out of their shells.

Try our recipe for broad bean, mushroom and bacon salad here.

pak choi

This is a Chinese cabbage. The leaves can be used raw in salads like lettuce and you can use the whole veg chopped thinly into stir fries or noodle soup.

To prepare it, remove the leaves and give them a wash, cut the leaves into strips then steam or stir fry.

Try our recipe for stir fried Asian noodles with pak choi and chicken here.

For more tips and recipes, visit our YouTube Channel

broad beans & Heisenberg’s principle

broad bean picking handsHalf the staff are lost in the broad beans, picking with deft, nimble and (I hope) well motivated fingers, moving systematically up the rows like marshalled locusts. A bean top rustles now and then and occasionally a head pops up to carry out a completed crate, but otherwise they could all be asleep in there.

time to sow the broad beans

Ben worked all weekend and managed to get the last broad beans sown just before the rain came. The ground was still frozen in places making it a battle for the cultivators; not ideal sowing conditions and I would be feeling nervous were it not for the memory of our best broad bean crop ever being forced into a damp frosty seed bed. We now face the war of wits to keep the crows off the field until they are established.

Miserable in the fields this morning as we return to the normal warm, wet and muddy Devon winter. Beetroot bunches just too muddy to be acceptable for the boxes and all had to be hosed off in the yard. Very short of greens for the boxes; still feeling the effects of a poor growing year followed by a cold winter. Ongoing debate with the co-op members about what constitutes an acceptable green cabbage. Think we will agree to pay less and double up the small ones in the boxes rather than hope that they will grow on the field and risk losing them.

Off to France tomorrow to finalise the purchase of our farm in the Vendee and to look at the crop trials we are doing there. All being well we will be growing early crops there for the veg boxes next year. Didier, the retiring farmer, has become so enthused by the project that he is staying on as a partner.