Broad Beans (Vicia faba) are one of the earliest cultivated crops with evidence pointing to their use in Mediterranean cultures many thousands of years ago.
If at any time you can get your hands on some fresh broad beans in their pods, you can save a few of the beans and dry them on the windowsill.
When they are fully dry, after about a week, save them in a paper bag until you are ready to plant. Winter or late autumn is best.
First of all dig over the soil with a fork, or use a three pronged hoe vigorously and remove any weeds you've loosened , then give it a good watering.
If you have poor sandy soil you will need to dig some well rotted compost or animal manure into your garden bed before you start. Cow, horse or sheep poo is better than chook poo which can be rather strong for young roots.
Push the beans into the soil about half the length of your longest finger, about 20 - 25 cms apart, then lightly rake the surface even, firm it down with the back of the rake and water once more.
Watch out for black fly and if present apply a good sprinkling of Derris Dust particulalry to the undersides of the leaves where they will gather to suck the sap from the leaves.
In dry warm weather you will need to water your emerging plants every day. The mature plant will be about waist high. They will have a white flower with a black mark - when the flower withers the bean starts to form in its' place.
Your broad bean pods will be ready to pick when they are the size and shape of the original one you saved the beans from.
If you have planted them fairly close together they will support each other as they grow, otherwise you may need to add some waist-high sticks and garden twine to provide some support.
As a guide, don't pick them until the bean pod is about 12-15 cm long. If you have picked them too soon - just eat the tiny beans inside raw, they are quite sweet. If you leave them too long on the plant they get tough and rather dry in the mouth.
And of course, don't forget to save some to dry for next season - they'll keep happily in a paper bag in a dry place for many months.
Keen to Know More?
If you want to glean all the real inside information on broad beans then a good place to start is the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries who can tell you just about everything there is to know about Vicia faba.
You can also access a list of all the regular varieties that are grown in Australia.