Beans, Peas & Spinach: dreaming of summer veg!
I love getting my spinach, beans and peas going in February – it feels like a promise of summer ahead! They are my absolute favourites to sow, too. No fiddly little seeds that get stuck to damp fingers – they are lovely and chunky, and so satisfying to press into the compost.
So far, I’ve sown the following, all in pots and under cover in our greenhouse:
Spinach: Usually, my main mistake with spinach is taking my eye off the ball in terms of picking the leaves. If you leave them to grow too big, I find that they tend to become a little bitter, and leave a furry residue on your teeth! However, baby spinach leaves are incredible in salads and hot dishes, so the key is to harvest frequently. My resolution this year is to never leave it more than two days without picking a good handful...
Climbing French beans: I once grew a dwarf variety of French bean, and will never bother to do so again, as the yield was so poor! I’m sure some people have success with them, but for me the joy of the climbing varieties is how prolific they are, and I would highly recommend giving them a go if you haven’t already.
We got tons of tender green pods from our climbing French beans last year, which were delicious steamed with butter, cold in salads, stir-friend, curried – they were just so versatile that we ended up eating them in nearly every meal. (I also far, far preferred them to runners, because they don’t go all scaly and stringy if you leave them on the plant a bit too long!)
Broad beans: I bought an early variety this time, as I felt impatient! Broad beans do sometimes seem like a lot of effort for not very much crop, but oh my goodness, those fat, juicy beans are so worth the trouble. They freeze exceptionally well, but mine never make it as far as the freezer – they are too tasty!
Sugar snaps: I get a bit frustrated that you don’t eat the pods of ordinary peas, as it seems such a waste – so sugar snaps make perfect sense to me! I love their crisp bite when you eat them raw.
Last summer, our sugar snap crop was so heavy that I experimented with freezing some. I blanched them in batches in boiling water, then transferred them directly to a bowl of iced water to stop them from cooking, before drying them off and bagging them for the freezer. We’ve been eating the frozen ones all winter, and I am glad to report that they’ve kept their colour and texture well. It is such a treat to eat your own home-grown summer veg over winter, so I intend to do the same again this year.
My plan is to get all the plants growing good and strong in pots in the greenhouse, before planting them outside once the weather has warmed up a bit. Some people prefer to plant beans and peas directly into the ground, but I like to get my FIGO frame set up first, then plant the strong little seedlings in exactly the right places around the frame, ready to climb on up!
What vegetables have you got going in February? Do drop us a line and let us know!