Broad beans are easy to grow, versatile and nutritious – low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, a good source of dietary fibre, protein, phosphorus, copper, folate and manganese. They are not readily available in supermarkets or local fruit & vegetable shops; if you do find them, they are usually expensive. Although this year’s crop was not as abundant as previous years, due to the lower rain fall, I still harvested more than enough to preserve.
The main ways to preserve broad beans is by drying or freezing. To dry, I simply uproot the mature plants and hang them upside down in a shaded, well ventilated place. Once completely dry, the beans can be removed from the pods and stored in glass jars in a cool, dry space.
To freeze fresh picked broad beans, pick medium to large size bean pods in the early morning and shell into a glass jar. Plastic bags also make fine storage containers. Here, we aim to reduce our use of plastic as much as possible and have been storing and freezing food in recycled glass jars for many years.
To defrost, take the jar out of the freezer 12 hours before cooking and leave on the lowest shelf in the fridge until ready to use. Once broad beans are defrosted, remove the tough outer skin. The beans can then be added raw to salads or cooked in a garlic and tomato sauce and served with couscous, rice or lentils.
When freezing solid food of fluids, it’s important to always leave a reasonable gap at the top of the jar as the content will expand during the freezing process. If you have never frozen food in glass jars and you are worried about the glass breaking, you may want to place your jars in a plastic bag until you feel more confident – this is what we did initially. We have only had one breakage in the last 5 years and this was the result of over filling a jar. The jar did not shatter, it just cracked. The content will not spill as long as it remains frozen but should still be discarded. Remember to label all your jars containing frozen produce and use within 12 months. If the content ever looks suspicious, it probably is… so just relocate it to the compost bin.