Broad bean: tips for growing it, sowing period and harvesting times
Broad bean: the characteristics of the plant
Broad bean is a leguminous plant, which belongs to the Fabaceae family. According to peasant traditions, it should be planted in the garden together with other crops, as it promotes their growth and protects them from insects and parasites. At the same time it is considered a plant that improves the characteristics of the soil and its nutritional properties: in fact, its very extensive root system enriches the soil with nitrogen. For this reason, since the Middle Ages broad beans have been sown between two crops, especially between two crops of wheat: in this way an exploited and/or exhausted land is made fertile again.
In addition, the supply of nitrogen in a natural way makes subsequent crops more robust, vigorous and developed.
There are four varieties, however the types grown are essentially two and are distinguished according to the size of the seeds: the broad bean with small seeds is used as forage, while the one with large seeds is considered as a vegetable. In any case, these are annual plants native to Asia, but which have spread to the rest of the world for several centuries: in Italy the most common varieties are the Reina Bianca, the Quarantina, the Green Saber and the Super Aguadolce.
The cultivation of broad beans: what you need to know
In Italy the cultivation of broad bean it is carried out mainly in the southern areas, as this species prefers warm and sunny climates. Since it fears drought but not cold, it is also cultivated in northern Italy in coastal areas, those not affected by winter frosts that can damage plants.
The consumption of broad beans is also higher in Southern Italy, in the form of mixed legume soups, purée with chicory and paired with smoked bacon, salami and salted ricotta.
In other regions it is consumed especially for May 1st together with goat's cheese. The cultivation of broad beans does not require particular care or specific climatic conditions: the ideal place is, however, the Mediterranean coast. While no fertilization is necessary, regular watering immediately after planting is essential. The distribution must be constant and the quantity of water to be administered depends on the sowing season and the climate of the area.
Sowing and harvesting
To sow the broad bean, you must first prepare the soil in summer: the ideal one is well-drained and partially clayey . On the other hand, it does not need to be fertile, as the plants themselves fertilize it: for this reason they are very important to prepare the soil for subsequent crops that are more demanding from a nutritional point of view..
The calcium-rich and stagnant-free substrate must be hoed to a depth of 40 cm, leveled and kept free of weeds. Sowing takes place in holes or in rows: the rows must be about 60 cm apart. In this way, each specimen can develop optimally and without having to contend for space, light and nutrients to the neighboring one. With a wooden awl, dig a hole of maximum 5 cm in depth, in which no more than three seeds should be placed.
It is necessary that the density of the plants does not exceed 8-10 specimens per square meter: in this way the harvesting phase is also easier. Sprouting takes place about 15 days after sowing; in order for this to occur in a shorter time, it is advisable to leave the seeds to soak for a few days.
The swing of broad beans is completed in different periods depending on the climatic zone in which it lives: for example, in cold areas it is sown in spring. On the other hand, in areas with a warm temperate climate, it is sown in autumn or at the beginning of the winter season. If the winter is mild, it can also be sown in November. Harvesting takes place about 180 days after sowing: consequently, if the sowing is done in March, it is ready for harvesting in June. However, if the sowing takes place in autumn, you can harvest only after 6 months, so in April.
Broad bean can reach a height of one meter, so it is advisable to adopt support elements, so as to facilitate growth. The pod contains 7-8 seeds and can vary greatly in size, ranging from 15 to 25 cm.