With its pretty monochrome flowers, broad bean plants are one the earliest to crop in the veg patch in late spring/early summer depending on which cultivar you grow. ‘Aqaudulce Claudia’ can be planted from November onwards and provide a late spring crop in May thereby avoiding problems with black fly that can affect the newest shoot tips. ‘The Sutton’ can wait to be planted in early spring and take you through to summer but is likely to attract the black fly so you will need to pinch out the shoot tips as soon as you see the little blighters unpack their bags for their summer holidays; these shoot tips can be washed and then simpy stir-fried. From mid-summer the crop of delicate little green jewels, are perfect steamed and skinned then served as the Italians do: simply tossed with peppery olive oil and liberal shavings of an aged parmesan. Or feast with your eyes on a colourful salad of baby broad beans and new radishes. But even the larger beans can be turned into a delighful topping for al fresco summer crostini, as long as they are removed from their wrinkly, furry overcoats once blanched.
150g shelled broad beans
juice and zest of an unwaxed lemon
extra virgin oilve oil
small bunch of fresh mint
Cut the french bread into thin ovals and brush with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven @200 deg C, for 5 minutes each side, or alternatively toast on a bbq. Remove from the oven and use the cut clove of garlic to lightly rub over the surface of crostini (don’t overdo it – it’s supposed to be hint of garlic not dracula-busting!)
Boil the broad beans for about 5 minutes, or until tender depending on the size. Squeeze the larger beans out of their wrinkly skins, whilst any baby beans can be left skin on. Puree the beans with 3tbsp. of good quality olive oil, lemon juice and zest, mint and season to taste. Spread onto the crostini and sprinkle with a sliver of parmesan and some finely chopped mint leaves.