Thursday, 16 June 2011

Bean shoots vs bean sprouts...

With all the news about E.coli being linked to bean sprouts I think I shall be avoiding them for a while. We sometimes grow our own alfalfa or mung bean shoots in a jar, but even when I grow them myself I worry about them harbouring bacteria in their warm moist environment perched on the windowsill. We did once have an evening where we felt quite strange after heating handfuls of alfalfa sprouts and wondered if they might have hallucinogenic properties!

Bean shoots are a different thing entirely. Broad beans are one of my favourite vegetables to grow. You can just stick a hole in the ground, drop a bean in and away they go. The smell of the flowers is beautiful too, on a warm evening it wafts across the garden like jasmine.
One of the unexpected delights that broad beans offer is the taste of the new shoots. When the plants grow to their full height and the flowers are starting to show, which in my garden is happening right about now, you can pinch out the growing shoots at the top. This gives a number of benefits, firstly it allows the plant to put its efforts into growing beans, secondly it puts off the black fly, who love to make a home on the tender new shoots, damaging the plants growth. But the best benefit of all is that bean shoots taste delicious.
The 3” shoots are a collection of young folded leaves with the occasional glimpse of a new flower bud, which are white with a black spot. A row of beans yields enough for a healthy lunch. They just need a light steam and plenty of black pepper and butter and they are also very good served on top of risotto. The closest thing I can liken them to is asparagus, but they are softer and taste, understandably, more broad bean-y. I’m off to pick myself some now...

--Claire Sutton

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