GARDENERS have their tried and tested favourites — after all it’s always exciting to look forward to eating something you really know you will appreciate.

But, this year after many summers of scoffing dwarf broad beans, I am returning to the full-sized variety I first grew half a century ago and which Malcolm, down at the allotments, has probably been growing for much longer.

Two years ago, after growing the white-flowered Optica for probably more than a decade, I tried The Sutton, and last year Crimson Flowered from the Rob Smith Heritage range from Dobies.

The latter looked wonderful and would grace any flower border or container, as well as the veg patch, with fragrant flowers and the bonus of beans for afters.

Isle of Wight County Press:

The crimson-flowered heritage variety.

They tasted great, but as for yield, not massive.

This was a bean popular in the 18th century, but thought to be extinct until the last few remaining seeds were donated to the Heritage Seed Library in 1978.

Saved by happy chance from being a has-bean.

One for the future will be Red Epicure. You will only get four or five beans per pod, but gourmands say they have a taste unrivalled.

The chestnutty-crimson coloured beans will retain their striking colour if lightly steamed rather than boiled, unlike a lot of veg, which lose their unusual hues when cooked.

But, to return to my theme, of the old bean — Aquadulce Claudia, Malcolm’s go-to.

These are the more usual black and white flowered. Now, while I find them a jolly sign of spring — and bees love them — there is a bloke who found them sexy.

Poet John Clare in his poem, Bean Blossoms, compares the black markings on the flowers to “the dark eye of somebody” and the white of the flower to “the hue of her bosom”.

Well, I don’t know about that, but after Aquadulce has attracted the cross-pollinators, each pod will contain seven or eight beans in as little as three months after planting — depending, however, on the time of year you choose.

Isle of Wight County Press:

The Aquaduluce Claudia variety.

Broads, especially Aquadulce (because they are super-hardy) are a marvellous over-wintering crop, sending nitrogen into the soil.

So as not to overdose your beans on nitrogen — which will produce lush leaves, but less beans — avoid chicken manure.

Instead, plump for compost or mature farmyard manure.

Broad beans don’t especially like it hot and will germinate well in temperatures ranging from 7C to 10C.

Now is not a bad time to do it raising plants in pots or trays, then putting them outside in the New Year when the ground is neither soggy, nor frozen.

That way, you stand a good chance of stealing a march on aphids, which will make a meal of the nutritious sap, while leaving sticky goo in return on the pods.

Adequate water throughout the growing season is essential, particularly when they flower — of whatever colour — and set seed pods.

Dwarfs need little, if any, support, but Aquadulce will blow over without staking and string.

Harvested young, they’ll be as succulent as any dwarf — and ten times better than anything from the shop!


  • Place an old scaffold board on the ground along the main access route into your veg plot to allow access without compacting the soil as you walk across it. Especially valuable when conditions are wet.
  • Light your greenhouse so you can still work when winter nights draw in. If there is no handy mains power, solar or battery LED lights are a bright, long-lasting, alternative.
  • If you don’t plant winter crops, use the fallow months to clean and maintain your greenhouse. Replace damaged glass and clean it thoroughly — washing it and the floor and staging with horticultural disinfectant to kill over-wintering pests and diseases.
  • If you don’t rely on growing bags, now is also a good time to dig out and replace old soil with fresh soil and compost atop well-rotted manure.
  • Lift and relocate garden plants when they are dormant.
  • Create compost bins for collecting fallen leaves and healthy dead plant material.

Have you got a gardening question, or some green-fingered news for Richard? You can email him on: