Broad Bean

Red Flowered


Broad Bean Red Flowered4
Broad Bean Red Flowered
How to grow broad beans.
In sheltered, southern gardens with well-drained soils, broad beans can be sown directly into the soil in early November or February for harvests as early as May. Sown in November, seeds will germinate within two to four weeks and young plants should overwinter and recommence growth as soon as conditions are favourable in spring. In cold areas, or when winters are severe, plants will need fleece or cloche protection..
Elsewhere, sow beans in pots under cover in February for planting out in spring or direct into the ground in March, April and even early May, for harvests throughout the summer. Pot-raised plants are especially useful where soils are wet or rich in clay (as these soils can lead to seeds rotting in the ground)..
Growing broad beans is fairly straightforward if you follow the steps below..
Choose a well-drained site that has been thoroughly dug and, ideally, improved with garden compost or well-rotted manure
Sow seeds 5-7.5cm (2-3in) deep and 15-23cm (6-9in) apart, depending on the cultivar. In open ground, sow in single rows 45cm (18in) apart or double rows 23cm (9in) apart with 60cm (2ft) between each double row. In raised beds where space is not needed to walk between rows for picking, all rows can be spaced 23cm (9in) apart.
Sow a few extra seeds at the end of the rows to produce plants which can be lifted and moved to fill in any gaps created by seeds that fail to germinate.
Hoe regularly to remove weeds as soon as they appear.
Tall cultivars may need staking. Use strings attached to sturdy stakes inserted at 1.2m (4ft) intervals. Smaller cultivars usually support each other, especially when they are planted in double rows.
Unless rainfall has been high, soak plants well at the start of flowering and again two weeks later. Further irrigation may also be needed on light soils.
When the lowest truss of blossom has formed small pods, pinch out the tips of the beans to promote fruit set and reduce problems with blackfly (an aphid). These tips can be steamed or stir-fried and eaten.
Harvest pods once beans have begun to visibly swell inside. Harvest plants in stages, starting with the lowest pod first; small beans are sweeter and more tender that large ones. Pods can also be picked when they are immature to be cooked and eaten whole

Further information

Thanks to Rebsie Fairholm an independent plant breeder for the following information. She is based in Cheltenham, south-west England mostly working with peas and potatoes and using heritage varieties for their diverse genepool.

Age: 18th century

Revived by the Heritage Seed Library from four seeds donated by a lady in Kent in 1978.

Pros: gorgeous flower colour, gorgeous scent, excellent blackfly resistance, lovely flavour

Cons: none that I noticed

This has to be my favourite broad bean ever … the old and un-named red-flowered or crimson-flowered variety. I love it. The flowers are the most beautiful colour and glow in the sunlight.
Clearly others love it too because it’s had a surge of popularity in recent years. Brought back from the edge of extinction by the Heritage Seed Library, it has found its way into a few seed catalogues on both sides of the Atlantic. There are still only a handful of suppliers selling it but it’s been busily doing the rounds at seed swaps, so it’s not too difficult to find these days.

Very simple descriptive names like “Crimson-flowered” (“Early long purple”, “Tall white” etc) are often an indication of a variety’s age, because it wasn’t really until the Victorian era that romantic names like “Lazy Housewife” and “Egyptian Turnip-Rooted” became de rigeur. Red-flowered broad beans were described in seed lists in the late 18th century, and what we have today is either the same one or a close variant of it. This variety seems to have come close to dying out, until Miss Cutbush, an elderly lady from Kent, donated her last four seeds to the Heritage Seed Library in 1978. It had been grown by her market-gardener father, who was given the seeds during his childhood years a century earlier.

It’s a smaller and more dainty plant than a conventional broad bean and grows to about 3ft with three red-tinged stems which usually stay up without support, at least until the podding stage. Leaves are a bright greyish green and fairly rounded. The pods are small and grow almost vertically, and the beans are pale green and about two-thirds the size of a modern type.

But they are very abundant, so yields are good overall. And the flavour and texture are fantastic. It has a slight firmness and mealiness in the texture which you wouldn’t find in most varieties today but it’s a nice kind of mealiness. And the flavour is sweet and lovely without any trace of bitterness. The beans cook to a nice bright green colour and only need to be lightly steamed.

The real wow-factor of this variety though is definitely its flowers. The crimson colour is so deep, voluptuous and translucent, and on spring days when the flowers are backlit by bright sunlight low on the horizon they can leave you staring at them for minutes on end in drop-jawed wonderment (they did me, anyway). And one of the unsung blessings of broad beans is that their flowers have a lovely scent.


Crimson-flowered has the most incredibly beautiful smell … and I speak as someone who finds a lot of flower scents headachey and nose-curdling. It’s just delicate and lovely, and it stops you in your tracks as you walk up the garden path. The bees love it too and I noticed they were chewing their way through the base of the flowers to get inside them.

Other than a bit of nibbling by bean or vine weevils, who give the leaves frilly edges by eating little notches all the way round, the plants seemed fairly resistant to everything, pest-wise. And most significantly, only mildly bothered by blackfly.

Blackfly is the ubiquitous and inevitable pest of broad beans. For those who don’t use sprays, the end of the broad bean season is often brought about when the plants (and pods) are so encrusted with solid black you can’t even get hold of them to harvest them any more. So when I first grew this variety in 2005 and found it was completely untroubled by blackfly until the last week or two of the season, I was quite excited. I grew it again in 2006 and the same thing happened … no blackfly at all until very late, and even then just a smattering (though there was some variation in infestation between plants … I saved seed from the ones which stayed cleanest, which also happened to be the reddest-flowered).

As far as I’m concerned, this alone makes it priceless in the garden. I’ve lost so many broad bean crops to blackfly, which are quite disgusting things when they build up to critical mass, and the usual organic methods (pinching the tips and hosing the blackfly off) have limited impact. So to find a variety that just gets on and grows untroubled, looking immaculate right up until harvest time, is quite a coup.
The ‘proper’ colour for the flowers is a deep wine red with darker burgundy underneath, which fade slightly with age to a deep carmine. There was a lot of variability in the seed stock I used, which was probably the result of an accidental cross. In 2005 I grew six, and no two were the same. Colours, markings and combinations varied from pale pink, dark cerise, burgundy red, charcoal grey with a pink flush, or pale pink and black bi-coloured. It’s probably cross-pollinated with a ‘normal’ black and white flowered bean. Broad beans do cross very readily so it would be no surprise if an open-pollinated variety like this had picked up a few stray genes from a neighbouring crop. It’ll probably do it some good, too.

They were all gorgeous, but I saved seed from the deepest red ones separately and it became true-breeding again in just a couple of years.

Broad Bean Red Flowered2

Broad Bean Red Flowered3
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