I keep about twenty rare, endangered, heritage and heirloom broad (fava) bean varieties in my seed library. Many of the broad beans I grow and save the seeds of our held within the Heritage Seed Library, which is part of the charity Garden Organic (link). But not all! Others I have found during my travels as a seed detective. Broad beans are native to a region of the world known as the Fertile Crescent; an area that spreads from the western Mediterranean and across much of the Near and Middle East. Two varieties in my collection come from Syria which was once the breadbasket of the Middle East Others I have found in northern Myanmar, the Atacama desert and across Europe.
You can check out one of the ways I grow broad bean here http://theseeddetective.co.uk/growing-broad-beans-in-a-greenhouse/
BOWLAND BEAUTY is held by the HSL and is unquestionably my favourite broad bean. It is a genuine heirloom with the longest of pods, filled with pale green and unimpeachably sweet beans. It requires great will power not to eat them all before I get them into the kitchen! They are very hardy so can be sown in the autumn as well as at the turn of the year.
(link to story of broad bean) I discovered this wonderful bean I call SYRIA SMALL whilst travelling in Syria in 2011 at the start of the civil war. Young boys in Damascus would wheel carts laden with these broad beans, harvested when young and immature, through the city streets. Locals would buy them to be cooked and eaten whole. Great as they are eaten this way, the young beans are equally delicious shelled. A remarkable taste of Syria.
BOSSINGHAM LONGPOD is another regular favourite in my growing plans and held safely in the HSL, its name tells you both where it came from originally and the size of the pods!
FAVA MOURDA REINA MOUZ – Purple Queen in Catalan is an incredibly rare and endangered Catalan heritage variety that was given to me by fellow seed collector Jesus Vargas. A delicious and hardy variety that crops heavily from being grown through the winter. Only as the pods ripen do the seeds turn from green to a deep purple.
I was given these beans by a seed seller in Hsipaw, northern Myanmar – hence their name. Due to changing farm practise no one was buying them to grow any more and she was about to throw them away. If I had not stumbled across her shop this lovely bean would have been lost for ever.
RED BRISTOW’S is a glorious heirloom broad bean that is safely held in the Heritage Seed Library. It comes originally from Walgrave, Northamptonshire. It is a compact variety with beautiful purple flowers that would not be amiss in the border. It’s pale green beans turn deep purple when they ripen. I love ‘em.
SWEET LORANE is such an appropriate name for this American heirloom broad bean that came to the HSL from Oregon. It is still widely grown in the US as a green manure, but if sown in the autumn and left to flower and set pods the crop of tiny beans is a delight. Sweet and delicious. Ask growers in America!
The SYRIAN GIANT FAVA is a bean that is grown to be dried. It is very precious for me as I was given seed by a chef in Palmyra before the town was overrun by Al-Qaeda where his family had been growing them for generations. Absolutely wonderful in a salad or for making ful Medames.
DRIMA is a favourite amongst many members of the HSL who grow and save seed year after year. It is a compact and very heavy cropping variety that was originally part of a breeding programme from Monsanto! Their loss is my gain.
Another variety that is held within the HSL, BACARDI has great disease resistance and yieldS small pods packed with one of my favourite beans. Just yummy