Fresh broad beans taste delicious, a far cry from the woolly, bitter beans you normally get at the supermarket.
Some people prefer to eat them when they're young - about the size of your thumbnail for the best flavour and texture. I find that they're just as good when they've grown to full size - plus you have a lot more bean to eat! Try both and see what you think.
Make a no frills but delicious antipasti by serving up a plateful of fresh broad beans to eat with slices of prosciutto or pecorino cheese.
Of course broad beans are wonderful cooked too. Steam or boil until tender. Try tossing them in some butter and add a few chopped mint or chive leaves for extra flavour.
Broad Bean Tips
The tender, bean-flavoured tips of broad beans make a great addition to salads. Pinch off the tender leafy tips when your plants reach 4-5 ft to stop them growing. Don't be put off by the inevitable black fly. Soak them for 15 minutes in salted water and the bugs will drop off. Great in green salads where flavours can be a bit bland.
Broad Bean and Pancetta Soup
Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and gently fry 200g of finely chopped onion and 150g of cubed pancetta. Once the onions turn translucent, add 800g of broad beans and 100ml water. Season and simmer for 20 minutes or so till the beans are cooked. Add the parsley, check the seasoning and serve.
Broad Bean Pasta
Boil a few handfuls of broad beans for 4-5 minutes until tender. Meanwhile saute a handful of cubed pancetta until slightly crispy. Add a thinly sliced clove of garlic. As soon as it begins to colour, add in the drained beans and enough double cream to coat the lot. Heat through and combine with penne pasta or similar. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if you have some and serve with grated parmesan.