I did wonder if would ever happen this year. My autumn sowings started beautifully and helped me through the melancholy time – that sense of the year ending and time passing with which I always struggle. Sadly, though, they did not survive being buried under a blanket of snow which felt as though it lasted pretty much from the end of November to mid-January. When it finally thawed my brave beans were nowhere to be seen. Exactly the same had happened the previous year so my faith in autumn sowings is a little shaken.
I have heard tell that you should sow beans on Boxing Day. The theory is that they get the benefit of an early start but haven’t actually broken through the surface of the soil until winter is pretty much over, and are, therefore, protected from the worst of the weather. An interesting idea: I may experiment this year.
So I had to start again with spring sowings which this year coincided with one of the driest springs on record. They did fine at first but I was a little slow to realise just how dry conditions were. By the time I did start watering regularly at the lottie my beans were really struggling. The plants are much shorter than they normally are and, whilst they are cropping I am not picking anywhere near as many as in previous years.
But the bottom line is, they are cropping and this is one of my favourite times of year. One of the unwritten laws in my head dictates that they should only be picked and prepared on a warm, lazy afternoon or evening (the sort of day when even the dog has collapsed in a heap). The podding process is preferably accompanied by a glass of something chilled. On this occasion I spent a lovely half hour spend podding them with the help of my two little girls: a calm and peaceful activity which I can remember doing with my mother in my own childhood.
Broad beans form the basis of many a simple supper, teaming fantastically well with garlic and mint which are both also at their best around now.
And somehow they just seem to say: “summer’s here”.