For those who can’t wait for their first broad beans you have two choices to either risk sowing a hardy variety in Autumn and risk heavy loses or plant a quick maturing spring variety like Express.
In the Kitchen
Express has a good flavour for an early bean but is not exceptional compared to some other varieties like Green Windsor and Imperial Green Longpod.
I like broad beans picked young and lightly blanched in boiling water. You can also use them instead of peas in Pea and Mint Bruschetta or as part of Falafels. Broad beans freeze well. To freeze plunge in to boiling water for a minute and, drain and then plunge in to icy cold water until cool. Drain and pat dry and then freeze, spread out on a tray if possible before putting in to a freezer proof container or bag.
Yield and Plant Health
The advantage of Express is that it is one of the first to start producing but certainly although the plants have produced many pods beans are on the smaller size although there are many pods so yield overall I did not find to be huge but good for an early. Express suffers from the usual pests and diseases such as black fly and chocolate spot. It is a fairly small plant so may manage in sheltered spots without support. Express has an RHS award of garden merit at the time or writing.
Express is designed to be sown in the spring to crop in June and should be sown successionally in two-week intervals between February (under cover), March and April. Broad bean Aquadulce Claudia can also be sown in autumn.
Sow bean seeds 5 cm deep and 15cm (dwarf varieties) to 20cm (tall apart) in 2 rows, 20 cm apart. Space each double row 60 cm away from each other. Sow extras at the end to replace any gaps. Alternatively you can sow in root training modules and plant out, after hardening off for a week when the beans have reached a couple of inches high.
Tall varieties will need support which is usually done by staking every 1.5m along the row and stringing two wires, one at 30cm height, the other 60 cm height. Repeat on the other side of the double row. Field beans and dwarf beans should not need support.
If you are sowing in modules and transplanting out then water in transplants well and keep well watered for the next two weeks. After that only water plants when they being to flower and then water well as beans start to set in the pods. Other than that they should only need watering if there is a prolonged dry period.
To reduce the chance of blackfly pinch off the top of the plant if you see blackfly or once the first beans starting to form. You can also spray them off with water. Discouraging ants with anti ant nematodes will also stop them farming and protecting blackfly and give other insects the chance to pick them off.
If you start to see chocolate brown spots (Chocolate Spot fungal infection) appearing, most likely in a hot wet spring/summer, then lift and dispose of the plant. Do not compost.
Harvest the beans when the pods feel full to the touch but before the beans develop a black stripe where it is attached to the pod. After this point they will be floury.