Broad Beans, frequently also referred to as Fava beans, are easy to grow and harvest in any children’s garden. Their massive size makes them quick to spot on the plant and easy for little hands to manage. As a cool weather crop, they can also be planted in the Fall (and again in the early Spring) for harvests that coincide with your school year, making them an easy and delicious choice for school and backyard gardeners! This post is intended as a helpful step-by-step guide on how to grow broad beans with kids in school or backyard gardens, our advice is tailored to growing broad beans specifically with children, or in a school garden context. Some advice might might be different than conventional gardening advice for that reason.
Planting Broad Beans
Broad beans are best sown directly into prepared soil. They are large and easy for little fingers to hold onto and deliberately plant. We buy our seeds from WestCoast Seeds. Their Windsor Bean is a Westcoast favourite because of its cold hardiness and reliability. Germination rates tend to be low for broad beans, so be sure to over plant for a bountiful harvest!
The rule of thumb when planting any seed is that they generally don’t like to be any deeper than twice their width. Broad beans like to be planted about 5cm deep and about 15cm apart along the soil line. If you are growing more than one row of beans, give each row about 30 cm (a school ruler length) to allow the crop to grow comfortably. Broad bean germination may be improved with proper seed orientation in the soil. On a broad bean seed you will see a dark spot in the seam of the seed. Place the seed vertically in the ground with the dark spot facing down for the best chance at germination.
The beans will grow quite tall, so planning for staking early is wise to avoid damaging plants later when trying to install supports.
Germination can take up to two weeks, so it is a good idea to place a string line over your planted seeds to ensure no one else plants there. Mark your rows with the date the seeds were planted and you have some calendar math to work on with your kids! How many days from planting to germination, and how many more to harvest?
In our west coast climate, broad beans can be planted in the fall in late October or early November. If the weather is warm, wait until later to plant. If the plants get too large before the cold of winter, they will not survive. Once the worst of winter is over, broad beans can be planted again from February through to early May.
Caring for Broad Beans
Broad Beans tend to attract aphids. Keep an eye out for these pesky bugs and blast the plant with a hose to discourage their spread and remove any remaining pests. It also helps to plant nasturtiums nearby, but away from your garden beds. Nasturtiums will attract the aphids away from your broad beans.
Broad beans prefer to grow in a well weeded bed. Keep the soil free of any competing weeds.
Harvesting Broad Beans
Simply snap the bean pod off the plant. The pod will split in two, like most beans and pea pods do, with a little effort. The inside of the pod is wonderfully soft and fuzzy. These pods make for an excellent sensory experience for many children!
Broad beans will keep well in the fridge for a few days with their pods intact. To prepare the beans for eating, remove the beans from the pods and blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes. Then place them in ice cold water to remove the waxy coating. Shelled beans will not store well, so be sure to process them quickly. Beans that are blanched and had their waxy cover removed will freeze well.
Cooking With Broad Beans
There are dozens of delicious recipes online and amazon sells this Bean cookbook. Simply sautéed broad beans are easy and kid friendly. I’ve made a yummy humous with our broad beans before and they make an easy and nutritious addition to any soup. With a class full of children, simply mash the warm beans with a fork, add some salt and spread them on a hearty cracker. Delicious!
Gardening With Kids
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