Recently someone commented on the blog that they wish I’d update them on the garden.
Be warned – its broad bean season:
The broad beans (fava beans to my US readers), which I neglected to stake this year are floppy and their stems broken. Despite my lack of attention they are prolific. Too many friends have received the dubious gift of a bag of the delicious, arduous gems.
Broad bean plants are unfussy. I’ve ignored them for months, forgetting to feed or stake or even weed the bed. Despite my inattention more and more of the heavy, giant sized pods appear. They hang, man-sized and dull waiting for the snip of my scissors.
The beans themselves are the opposite of easy to prepare. Not difficult but time consuming because, to truly enjoy a broad bean, each bean needs to be skinned. I don’t mean podded although they also need that. I mean skinned.
I often feel a little mean as I pod broad beans. The pod inner is velvety and pale, the perfect nursery for a growing bean. My rough, black-green stained fingernails slice brutally through their tiny umbilical cords and shuck them into a bowl. From the bowl it’s into a pan of salted, boiling water for scarcely a minute. Then the beans are out of the water and under the cool running tap for a minute or so – just long enough so that I can handle them without burning my fingers.
Sitting in the slanting rays of sun at the kitchen table, I nick each bean with my right thumb nail whilst I pinch it between the index finger and thumb of my left hand. A electric green bean pops into the waiting bowl. The bean skin is a a ghostly translucent khaki and is thrown in with the peels and offcuts waiting for the compost bin. An old advert for frozen vegetables loops in my mind because… “Life’s too short to peel a pea…” or a bean, in this case.
I’ll freeze most of the broad beans in tiny packets that reflect the solitary nature of my beany love. Later, when spring turns to fiery summer, I’ll combine them with peas, celery, spinach, goat cheese and a little gin into a cold soup to remind me of this time. Later still, when the days begin to cool, I’ll slip them into a creamy risotto-for-one on days when the others are out or not hungry. One day, I promise myself, I’ll experiment with soy sauce or miso for broad bean take on the edamames that Josh and my sister slurp up in a local sushi bar.
Today I sprinkle them, still warm, into a chicken salad. The beans, studded with cracked pepper and glistening with vinaigrette nudge against the scarlet hot pepper flakes. The family gag and perform Hannibal Lecter teeth sucking impersonations at my choice.
I take a bite. The taste is spring.