Come one, come all – soon there will be beautiful green broad beans at the Oranjezicht City Farm’s market!
These big green beauties (also known as fava beans) have been steadily reaching maturity in a multitude of staked rows in the city farm, a small, neat army of pale green soldiers standing to attention. Planted in early autumn, they have been nurtured from seed and are now ready to be harvested and enjoyed in a variety of luscious dishes.
Imagine if you will, a light salad of briefly boiled beans with some cured ham (for “fava beans have a kinship with ham in all its forms”, argues the British cookery writer Nigel Slater). Or how about a simple dish of steamed beans, potatoes and artichokes (seasoned with garlic and a scattering of spring onions), as embraced by the writer Frances Mayes in her adopted home of Tuscany?
But these are all the recipes of foreign cooks, you may ask – what’s cooking in our local kitchens? Well, that’s where things get interesting.
Because next Saturday (9th of August) there will be a local and very lekker demonstration on how to cook with broad beans and our very own waterblommetjies, hosted by OZCF’s Making Kos collaborator Loubie Rusch. Titled Broad Beans and Blomme – Exploring a Few Ways to Use Them, this is the first in a series of planned cooking demonstrations to be hosted in the old barn at the farm.
On the day, from 10:00 to 12:00, Loubie will harvest a range of broad bean pods as well as produce from the farm, and show participants how to make meals from these and other ingredients, with a particular focus on waterblommetjies.
Locals will know that waterblommetjies (indigenous to South Africa, specifically the winter rainfall areas of the Cape) are now in season, to be enjoyed until spring. This delicacy, also known as Vleikos and Cape Pond Weed, has become so popular that it is being commercially cultivated. Although it is most often found cooked into the comforting winter stew Waterblommetjiebredie, there are a myriad other ways to enjoy and utilise this local green.
So if you’d like to know more, be sure to sign up for the workshop! (Space is limited, so e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot. Cost is R200 per person and includes recipes, growing tips and, best of all, enjoying the prepared fruits of Loubie’s labour.)
But back to the reason for this post: the broad beans are in season! And unless you intend to hand over a small fortune for a handful of lonely green beans at your local retailer, it’s best to come to the market to have a taste of the real (much fresher) thing – or of course to start growing your own. Because as we know, at the farm it all comes down to inspiring people to GYO (grow your own).
And believe me, there are few crops more satisfying to cultivate than the broad bean. A robust grower with an elegant, almost symmetrical form, the broad bean is a welcome addition to any urban farm or kitchen garden. (Returning to cooking for a moment, it is important to note the local gardening guru Jane Griffith’s warning about eating broad beans: “Eating broad beans or inhaling the pollen can have a potentially fatal affect on some people of southern European descent. Symptoms include muscle weakness and paralysis. It is an inherited disorder called Favism.” So check your family tree, people!)
When it comes to growing the beans, however, matters are much simpler. The broad bean, says Mark Harding, one of the OZCF’s dedicated and knowledgeable gardeners, is one of those plants that like the cold. “Too hot and the flowers fall off,” he adds. And you don’t want that – the beautiful flowers, perching on the stems like hundreds of white and black butterflies, are a big part of their charm. (You also get varietals with gorgeous pink-purple blooms – these Crimson Flowered beans are a rare local sight unfortunately, though Sheryl recently found evidence of them at SEED in Mitchells Plain)
A fantastic nitrogen fixer, this winter crop only needs a strong stake to protect it against winds and from toppling over, a good compost tea feed every now and again once it reaches the flower stage, and Bob’s your uncle. So, what are you waiting for? (Well, next autumn, obviously. But you get the point.)
– by Jeanne Calitz, lifestyle journalist and amateur kitchen gardener. Pictures by Jill Chen, ejozi.com
– Sources: Jane’s Delicious Garden by Jane Griffiths, Tender: A cook and his vegetable patch, by Nigel Slater, and Bella Tuscany, by Frances Mayes.