I recently had a TV crew visit my garden to film a segment for a show in the New Year.
The weeks leading up to the day I weeded and tidied my garden. However, looking neat wasn’t going to make my South Island veggie garden very exciting to film. Sure, I have spring greens galore – lettuce, rocket, silver beet, spinach, parsley, coriander – but these don’t really have the “wow” factor.
It was with relief I noticed the broad bean pods swelling on the plants. I don’t think I have ever been so ecstatic to see a broad bean! And with all the rain these past months, the plants had grown to an impressive 1 1/2 metres tall (check them out HERE). They looked lush and vibrant, albeit still a green hued vegetable, but a versatile one.
I like to pick broad beans while they are still relatively young, when they are sweet and tender. The young leaves and flowering tips (pictured above and used in the hotcakes) can also be harvested, in moderation, tasting just like a broad bean. Eat them raw in a salad or cook the larger leaves as you would silver beet or spinach. Don’t strip the plants, just take a little here and there, rotating around the stalks.
I hand-sow one-metre blocks of broad beans every month from May to August, so come spring my first crop of beans are ready to harvest. Broad beans are a double whammy garden plant providing edible food, while under the ground they are busy at work re-energising the soil for hungry summer crops. At the end of the season I always leave a few bean pods to shrivel on the plants to save the dried beans (seeds) for planting next season. And so the cycle continues…
Broad bean preparation: When harvesting fresh broad beans I prefer to harvest the pods before they get too big. The smaller beans can be eaten raw. Once the beans are bigger (beyond the size of a 50c piece) they are best blanched for several minutes in a saucepan of boiling water. Drain and rinse under cold water while slipping the tough grey-coloured skin from the beans, to be composted, revealing vibrant green beans.
To make a simple Broad Bean and Feta Dip, mash or blend about ½ cup broad beans (raw or blanched), with 50g feta and a splash of olive oil. Add chopped mint and cracked pepper to taste. Serve on toast or crackers, or a side to meat or fish.
These savoury hot cakes can be a light meal on their own, or serve them alongside salad and bread for dinner. If broad beans are unavailable, use chopped asparagus.
250g ricotta or cottage cheese
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup (40g) flour (gluten-free: use white rice flour)
Large handful fresh mint, finely chopped
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh or frozen broad beans – see preparation tips above
OR 10 flowering broad bean tips
Olive oil for cooking
- Place the ricotta or cottage cheese into a bowl along with the egg yolks, flour, mint and seasoning. Use a fork to combine. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form then gently fold into the ricotta mixture.
- Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a moderate heat, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and dollop heaped tablespoon amounts of the ricotta mixture into the hot pan.
- Sprinkle the uncooked surface of the hot cakes with broad beans, or place a flowering broad bean tip on each. Once the hot cakes are golden around the edges, flip and cook for 1 minute until just cooked through.
- Slide on to a plate and repeat with the remaining mixture. Serve immediately.
More Broad Bean Recipes on Homegrown Kitchen: