The days are definitely lengthening. I promise! It’s just that the skies here in Dorset are so grey and filled with cloud. But listen carefully and you will hear the bird song and those precious extra moments of light are encouraging the hens to lay, as well as linger until every last speck of corn has been found in their pen and it REALLY is time for them to roost safely in their house for the night.
I am not a gardener but I do love my garden, and gathering fresh produce from just outside the kitchen door is a real treat. We are so fortunate to have perennial herbs in the walled potager, a variety of fruit trees that line the track leading to the farmhouse as well as a few beds especially set aside, for beans, spinach, kale and soft herbs such as chervil, coriander, basil and parsley.
If you are an enthusiastic amateur like me, or simply would love to begin growing just a few of your vegetables this season, then now is the time to start preparing. Whether you have a green house or cool conservatory broad beans, lettuce, dill and coriander can all be sown from mid February onwards. Alternatively, if you can only use a window sill indoors, I would wait a couple of weeks as the extra warmth will encourage the plants to become ‘leggy’, before you can plant them out with some protection under fleece in a prepared bed.
We totally understand that the thought of wrapping up warm to spend some time in the garden this weekend, may not be top of your list, but honestly, when you are gathering your crop of broad beans and tasting them straight from the shell, you will be pleased you did.
If that is not enough to persuade you, then take a look at our recipes ideas for later in the season. We will be sharing the full details in the spring, just in time for your first picking …
- Young bean pods can be eaten whole and the tender tips of the plants can be added, at the last minute, to a risotto.
- Remove developed pods to reveal tender green beans inside, blanch and refresh to serve with summer savoury and a homemade vinaigrette. For a veggie alternative, add cubes of feta along with fresh chopped mint. Or for a meat option, shallow fry lardons of bacon until they are crispy and add these instead.
- As the season progresses and the beans are fully grown, once the beans are brought to the boil, you may need to remove their grey tough skins, to reveal a bright green tender inner. We promise this double ‘de-podding’ is worth the effort. Sprinkle these gems over freshly washed salad leaves, dressed with lemon oil and parmesan.
- Mature beans can also be used to make falafel or bean fritters. All fabulous plant-based dishes that definitely don’t need to be left as a ‘side’.
- For a tasty picnic or weekday packed lunch, whizz cooked beans and fresh chopped mint in the food processor with lemon zest, tahini, olive oil, sea salt and pepper along with a pinch of smoked paprika for a home grown version of hummus that can be enjoyed with celery sticks or spread in a flatbread with grated carrot and leaves.