Is any vegetable more reminiscent of summer than the gorgeous broad bean?
It is also the most versatile of vegetables, working beautifully in risottos, pasta, and salads and, as Hannibal Lector says it also goes perfectly with a glass of Chianti.
Broad Bean 'Witkiem' shows excellent tolerance to cold weather and is perfect for early sowings in February. Early to mature, it produces a good crop of plump, well filled pods with big tasty beans, with a succession of sowings they will be ready to harvest from June into September.
Witkiem is suited to standard and late sowings and can be sown as late as May. It produces top quality white beans with approximately 5 beans per pod.
Witkiem is a white seeded variety that grows to around 100cm (39in) tall. The fragrant, black and white flowers are followed by short, glossy, leathery green pods. Recommended for home freezing.
When dried, the beans are wonderful in winter stews and soups, but as summer gets underway, and the young beans are plucked from the pod, they are so tender they can also be eaten raw.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Broad Bean 'Witkiem' was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1995.
Sowing: For the earliest crops sow from early autumn to late winter or sow in spring
Broad beans are best suited to a cool climate, and they only grow satisfactorily at temperatures below 15°C (60°F). If sowing in the autumn, choose a sheltered position and cover the plants with fleece for added protection.The ideal soil is one which has been manured for a previous crop.
Broad beans are traditionally sow in double rows 7cm (2in.) deep, 23cm (9in.) apart in the row. The double rows should be spaced 23cm (9in.) apart and a distance of 40-60cm (18-24in.) should be left before the next set of double rows. Plant seed 5cm deep. They should be planted or thinned to 20cm apart in staggered rows 30cm apart. Sow extra seeds at the end of the row for transplants.
As the beans get taller, you will need to provide extra support to your plants. A common mistake of the first-time gardener is not giving plants support ties that allow growing space. The haulm (stalk) of the broad bean plant is very brittle and easily broken, so the best way to support the plant is to construct a narrow box of stakes pegged in at 120cm intervals. Twist lengths of string from stake to stake to create a supporting frame that the bean plants can lean against when being blown around by the winter winds. Further levels of string can be added as the beans grow taller.
Once the pods start to form, ensure the beans are well watered around the base of the plant during dry periods. If the plants send out side shoots from the base, these should be cut off. At the end of cropping the plants should be removed from the soil. If the plants are left in the ground after their work is done, young sucker shoots can emerge which will exhaust the soil for follow-on crops.
One of the gardening formalities with broad beans - undertaken when the flowers have just wilted to black, sooty curls and the first tiny pods are about to appear in their place - is to pinch out the little cluster of leaves at the top of the plant. This arrests further growth, directing the energy of the plant into the developing pods. Don't discard these leafy bean tops - stir-fried in butter until lightly wilted, they are a delicious vegetable side dish in their own right - think of them as beany greens. They are also a fine filling for a tart or omelette.
Harvest 8 to 10 weeks from spring sowing. Regular picking (ideally 2 or 3 times a week) will keep production going for about 4 to 6 weeks For the best flavour, pick the beans when they are starting to show through the pod while the scar on the end of the beans is still white or green (although they can still be enjoyed after the scar has turned black).
To remove the pods from the plant, give them a sharp twist in a downward direction. With the last pick of the summer, the fat, bulging pods need a good 10 minutes boiling, after which the tender green kernels can be slipped out of their pale, leathery skins.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 50 grams Average Seed Count 40 Seeds Common Name Broad Beans, Fava or Horse Beans. Family Leguminosae Genus Vicia Species faba Cultivar Witkiem Height 100cm (39in) Spacing Space 23cm (9in.) apart Soil The ideal soil is one which has been manured for a previous crop. Time to Sow Sow from February to May Germination 7 to 14 days Time to Harvest Harvest 8 to 10 weeks from spring sowing.