This is the first year since moving here seven years ago that I've managed to get the vegetable patch properly dug over and planted up. It isn't very large and there is a bothersome area which is mostly clay and rubble. All that considered, it's been rewarding seeing everything grow, especially considering it was a paved over area once.
Broad beans are not to everyone's taste; they are called fava beans in other places and the strong, irony taste can be off putting.
We have been mixing them in with warm potatoes, as a summer salad.
I remember having to shell some once when I was a child, at an aunt's. I loved the 'furry' lining inside the pods. Once opened, the beans seem strangely vulnerable, as if a small sleeping creature had been uncovered and hadn't quite woken up yet.
While I was sat on the draining board by the kitchen window, busily shelling, Jean-next-door popped round with a small offering of raspberries, the first from their garden. This is a tradition started from my first year here, and is always welcome. I offered her some beans, but they are firmly in the not liking them camp.
Podding took over an hour and to be honest, it seemed like a lot of work for half a large bowl of beans. But we never had any illusions about being self sufficient, especially with limited growing space. All the empty pods went back onto the potatoes to rot down as extra fertilizer.
Blanching is one of those necessary things for long term freezing - it sounds like a bit of an effort, but actually takes less than twenty minutes. I don't use iced water to cool them down as I find that cold water works perfectly well. In the end there were enough for four double portions, which will be a nice treat in the winter.
Earlier in the year I planted a whole packet of Purple Podded Peas, a heritage variety which came with the warning that they can grow up to 2 meters high. I managed to find some very tall canes and planted them alongside the fence, to maximize growing space. They did reach an astonishing height, outgrowing the poles and tumbling over themselves at the top, forming tangled bundles.
Apart from anything else, they are simply beautiful to look at and very prolific. I had meant to pick them earlier, but being pre-occupied with Joe's health, gardening took a back seat. I was worried that I had left them for too long, as most of the pods were wrinkled.
Happily, most of them were fine.
After another long podding session and with careful sorting, I ended up with some dried peas for next years planting, two batches of green peas and one batch of older peas which I can make into that traditional British stalwart 'mushy' peas. All now frozen and waiting to bring us summer joy later in the year when the warm weather is a distant memory.