Jan | Feb | March | April | May | June | July | August | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec
Oh succulent nuggets of goodness! Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Well perhaps not… but try to forget those horrors of over-cooked offerings regularly served up with school meals (again!) and instead visualise a plateful of these little beauties freshly picked from the garden, gently steamed and served with a little fried garlic or a glorious leafy salad dressed with olive oil.
Sometimes known as the field or horse bean, vicia faba (for the classical scholars amongst us) is thought to have originated from either North Africa or South Eastern Asia. It is one of the most ancient plants under cultivation, mainly because it’s relatively easy to grow in most climates (if you can keep the slugs off!) and has been a staple food of Europeans for thousands of years. Broad beans continue to be used extensively in traditional Middle Eastern dishes but can also be fried, salted and spiced to produce savoury crunchy snacks. I’d recommend heart-warming stews made from dried broad beans too!
Broad beans are a good source of vitamin A, iron, fibre, potassium and protein and a useful source of vitamin C. Researchers assessing the effects of dietary lectins on the behaviour of cancer cells in the colon have even suggested that the humble broad bean might help to prevent bowel cancer.
Mythology and mysticism seem to surround the broad bean. Rumour has it that ancient Greek mathematician Pythagoras died after being pursued into a broad bean field. Apparently he felt unable to trample on any of the beans believing that the souls of man transformed into beans after their death. He was easily caught! Dreaming of a bean is sometimes said to be a sign of impending conflict and it is even suggested that when offered as a wedding present broad beans ensure the birth of a baby son.
And just in case you were wondering… the broad bean has a diploid (2n) chromosome number of 12, meaning that each cell in the plant has 12 chromosomes (6 homologous pairs). Five pairs are acrocentric chromosomes and 1 pair is metacentric.
Broad bean pate anyone?