There are so many types of beans you could spend the rest of your life trying different varieties. There are dwarf growing ones, taller ones and ones that need to climb up some kind of structure. There are ones like soybeans Glycine max and broad beans Vicia faba, that have their own family or genus, but most of the popular beans are of the genus Phaseolus. These originated in countries like Peru and were unknown in the rest of the world until Europeans discovered the Americas. Until then Asians and Europeans had a much more limited selection of varieties to choose from.

The two main species of Phaseolus are Phaseolus vulgaris – comprising both dwarf and climbing varieties, many of which can be grown for both the green pods for summer eating and the dried seeds for winter eating. These include Borlotti, French, Gila Indian, Haricot, Kidney, Pinto Quarry, Snap beans and many, many more.

The above are distinct from Phaseolus coccineus, which is the Runner bean, or Scarlet runner, which usually is a vigorous climber with a unique taste that is distinct from its cousin Phaseolus vulgaris.

The dried bean seeds are great sources of proteins and calories. Dried beans average out at around 7.9g (¼oz) protein and 126 calories per 100g (3½oz), with variations of course. Soybeans on the other hand have around 35.22g (1¼oz) protein and 471 calories per 100 grams (3½oz).

Experiment with growing a range and see what suits you and the climatic and soil conditions that are unique to where you live. Below are just some of them you could try.

BROAD BEAN (Vicia faba) [Faba Bean]  

Before the wide variety of beans from Peru were introduced to the rest of the world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to enhance our diets, broad beans and lentils were the mainstay of European peasantry for hundreds of years. They were eaten fresh and dried for use to soak and cook up on the short cold winter days and to make soup. The field (tick bean) version was and still is, used dried and ground to use as a protein food for farm animals. We grew tick beans on our farm for just this purpose.

A lot of people are put off broad beans, largely because the old varieties were tougher skinned, but more importantly because gardeners often leave the pods too long before picking and the beans get too big and tough. Keep picking the pods when the beans are still small, don’t over cook them and you might be pleasantly surprised. Even the tenderest peas can become tough if left in the pod too long.

Soil & Feeding:

Because broad beans, like other legumes, produce their own Nitrogen in their root nodules, they will be quite happy following potatoes, or sweet corn in the rotation, which will have been heavily fed with compost, or composted manure, much of which will still be there in the soil; otherwise fork in one bucket of well rotted compost per square metre (yard). If you have grown an early crop of green manure on the plot, dig in before sowing the seeds – they will like making their own compost out of the green manure with the help of their Nitrogen rich root nodules.

Broad beans are potash-greedy and it is useful, to apply seaweed meal mixed into the soil, at the specified rate, before sowing the seeds. They also like liquid comfrey manure for the same reason, or mulching the bean plant with comfrey leaves (see: Liquid Manures in the section ‘Building Fertility’). Also, spraying with liquid seaweed several times during the growing season will help feed the plants and help their resistance to pests and diseases. Another advantage of feeding your plants with seaweed is that it contains all the trace elements known to humans, which the plants need, and benefit from, but when you eat the plants – you too will receive healthy trace elements as well!


Aquadulce Claudia: is a tall variety with light green seeds, enjoyed worldwide, the light green beans are succulent, tasty and suitable for freezing – pick young.

Red Seeded (NZ Heritage): is a very good tasting small red beans inside green pods.

Scottish (NZ Heritage): is a very good cropper, tasty, and stays green when cooked.

Giant Windsor: is an old variety, very tasty – pick young.

Dutch White Seeded: is one of the modern varieties. The plants only grow 120cm (4ft) high. Superb quality and early maturing.


Broad Bean seed lasts 2 years.

For an early crop, sow in late autumn/early winter, mid May is best in the southern hemisphere, October-November in the northern hemisphere, any earlier and the beans flower too early when the bees are not around to pollinate them. You can also sow in early to mid spring onwards as your main crop, or as a second crop following the autumn sown ones. Take out a shallow trench 5cm (2in) deep and just over 30cm (1ft) wide with a spade or draw hoe (preferably running North/South) and sow the seeds, 10cm (4in) apart along one side of the shallow trench. Then sow a second line of seeds on the other side facing the gaps. These pairs of staggered rows support each other. Leave a gap of 1 metre (3ft) between the first double row and the next. This will allow sunlight and pollinating bees to get to the growing beans, as well as giving you room to pick them.


When the young shoots are 5cm (2in) high, heap up the soil around the stems in 5cm (2in) high ridges, to help stabilise them against wind. The beans will produce more shoots from the base of their stems. You will need to support them against windy weather, by hammering in stakes at the corners of each double row and stretching garden string around the middle and top of the posts to stop them flopping over.

The beans will also benefit from watering and/or spraying with liquid seaweed at least twice during the growing season. Pinch out the growing points with about 20cm (8in) of stem when the plants are a metre tall, this will help to stop black fly attacking the young juicy tops and will also encourage the plants to concentrate on filling the lower pods.


Pick young, but leave some on to turn black and dry to keep for sowing next year and for cooking up in the winter. Cut down the stems for excellent compost material, but leave in the roots and plant out your winter cabbages and Brussels sprouts etc., up against the old stems so they can enjoy the Nitrogen from the beans root nodules left in the soil – an old gardener’s trick.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Chocolate Spot: This is undoubtedly a disease of generally unhealthy plants with low resistance. All the years of growing field versions and garden versions of broad beans organically, I have had little or no problems with black spot. In years where there was a late attack of black spot, it did little damage. I can only put it down to healthy organically grown plants.

Aphids: Use one of the homemade treatments in the section ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ - Homemade Organic Insecticides & Fungicides.


Broad Bean Salad

Serves 4

You can prepare this flavourful broad bean salad in minutes - tomatoes, onion and cucumber tossed with fresh parsley, lemon juice and olive oil. 


• 500g (1 pound) cooked broad beans

• 2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped

• 1 small onion, diced

• 1 cucumber, diced

• 2 cloves garlic, crushed

• ½ a bunch fresh parsley, chopped

• 1 lemon, juiced • 3 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 teaspoon ground cumin

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Combine broad beans, tomatoes, onion and cucumber in a salad bowl 2. Toss with garlic, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil

3. Season with cumin, and salt and pepper to taste

4. Can be served room temperature or cold

Portuguese Broad Beans

Serves 8

Ready in 45 minutes


• 5 tablespoons olive oil

• 3 large onions, chopped

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 tablespoons chilli flakes

• 2 tablespoons tomato purée

• 2 cups hot water

• A good handful chopped fresh parsley

• Salt to taste

• ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 2 teaspoons paprika

• 1 kg (2 pound) baby broad beans


Prep: 15 minutes | to cook: 30 minutes

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

2. Cook onion and garlic until golden brown.

3. Stir in chillies, tomato purée, hot water, parsley, salt, pepper and paprika.

4. Bring to the boil, add broad beans and reduce heat.

5. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until beans are tender.

Mediterranean Salad with Broad Beans

Serves 6

Ready in 30 minutes

This is a variation of a classic Greek-style salad. 


• 1 cup fresh broad beans

• 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

• 3 tablespoons lemon juice

• 2 garlic cloves, crushed

• ¼ teaspoon sugar

• Freshly ground black pepper to taste

• 2 cups shredded Cos lettuce

• 250g (9oz) cherry tomatoes, quartered, or 2 medium tomatoes, cored, cut into wedges

• 1 cucumber, sliced

• 4 spring onions, chopped

• ½ cup pitted olives, halved

• ½ cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves

• ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

• 200g (7oz) feta cheese, crumbled


Prep: 25 minutes | to cook: 5 minutes

1. For broad beans: bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add broad beans and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold running water. When cool, peel off the skin.

2. Combine the oil, lemon juice, garlic, sugar and pepper in a screw-top jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to blend.

3. Combine the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions, olives, mint, parsley and cooked beans in a large bowl. Just before serving, drizzle the lemon dressing over salad and toss to coat well. Sprinkle each serving with feta cheese.

For dried broad beans:

Broad Bean Pâté

Makes about a cup


• 1 cup cooked broad beans

• 2 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste/tomato purée

• 2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 teaspoon dried basil

• A squeeze of lemon juice

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Fresh basil for garnish


1. Soak the dried broad beans in cold water for 12-24 hours, then rinse and drain.

2. Place in a saucepan with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, then simmer on a low heat until soft, but not mushy (about 40 minutes or longer, depending on the age of the beans etc.)

3. Do not add salt until the end, as this may extend the cooking period.

4. You need about ½ cup of dried beans to make 1 cup of cooked ones.

5. Blend the first five ingredients in a bowl with a hand-held blender into a smooth paste.

6. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

7. Garnish with a fresh basil leave and serve.

DWARF BEANS (Phaseolus vulgaris) – Borlotti, French, Haricot, Kidney, Pinto, etc.

There are many varieties of lovely dwarf green beans, or yellow or even purple ones, either flat or rounded, that are great eaten fresh, but some you can also save for the seeds from to soak and boil up in the winter. The obvious one is the Haricot (Navy) bean. The easiest to grow is Brown Dutch, if you can get it. The pods are nice as well. The other obvious one is the Kidney bean. Again the pods are great eaten fresh, but if you like Chilli Beans and other ways of cooking kidney beans, leave some pods unpicked, or grow a crop exclusively for dried seed production.

Soil & Feeding:

Like broad beans, these beans do not need heavy feeding, best to grow in pea and beans section of your rotation following potatoes, or sweet corn, which have been well fed with compost. Again, feed with seaweed meal if you have any, the potash will benefit the crop and the wide range of trace elements will benefit both the crop and those that eat the beans.


Slenderette: is one of our favourite green beans. It is a prolific producer of thin, delicate rounded beans, without strings and very tasty.

Red Kidney: is a good cropper, produces flattened pods of good flavour. It is also grown for the deep red seeds, used for cooking chilly beans etc. I originally bought ours from an organic shop and have grown and harvested the seeds ever since.

Borlotto Fire Tongue: is a productive bean that is a favourite in Italy and Italian cooking. They are grown for their young pods, using the fresh seeds from more mature pods and finally the dried speckled red and yellow seeds. The seeds are large for a dwarf been and have a chestnut flavour and buttery texture when cooked.


Bean seeds last 2 years.

Sow in deep boxes of seed compost, or two in each toilet roll, or two in each pot to plant out later. If both seeds germinate, pull out the weaker one. Alternatively sow outside in early to mid spring, 15cm (6in) apart in rows 30cm (1ft) apart, with a few spare at the end of the row in case some don’t germinate and need replacing, or for deep beds plants should be 15cm (6in) apart in staggered rows.


Plant out your toilet rolls spaced as above. If it is still chilly outside, place a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off, and the stopper off, and a bamboo pushed through to stop it blowing over, over each plant as a temporary cloche; taking them off in the daytime if it is hot and sunny, replacing them at night.


Pick and eat the pods on a regular basis leaving a proportion to grow big for drying the seeds – some for sowing next year and the rest for soaking and cooking during the winter months. If the late summer, or early autumn is wet, then pull up the plants when the pods have turned yellow and hang the plants up in a dry shed, Polytunnel or glasshouse to dry properly. Then place them on a plastic sheet, or clean concrete floor and tread or stamp on them to thresh the seeds out. You can then sieve the seed to separate out the finer particles, and then sieve them through a garden sieve so the seed drops through and the plant material stays behind. Store in jars or paper bags until you need them.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Aphids: Use one of the homemade treatments in the section ‘Pests & Diseases’HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES.



Dwarf Beans with Feta, Walnuts and Mint

Serves two to four.

This simple, tasty salad works with runner beans, too.


• 280g (10oz) dwarf beans, trimmed

• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

• The juice of ½ small lemon

• A small handful of mint leaves, tough stalks removed, and chopped

• 1 small handful dill, tough stalks removed, half the fronds chopped, the rest reserved to garnish the dish

• Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 150g (5¼oz) feta

• 50g (1¾oz) walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped


1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the beans until just tender, about three to six minutes, then drain and refresh in cold water.

2. Dress the beans in the olive oil, lemon juice, mint, some of the dill, salt and pepper.

3. Serve topped with crumbled feta cheese, walnuts and the remaining dill fronds scattered over the top.

Fresh Borlotti Beans with Onion & Garlic

Serves three to four.

These are good hot, warm or at room temperature. 


• 400g (14oz) fresh borlotto beans (shelled weight)

• 1 bouquet garni, comprising 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig thyme, 3 parsley stalks 30g (1oz) butter

• 2 onions, halved and thinly sliced

• 1 leek, halved and thinly sliced

• 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled but bashed to break the skin

• 6 small, fresh bay leaves

• 1 sprig fresh thyme

• ¼-½ teaspoon chilli flakes, or to taste

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• About 12 sage leaves, finely chopped

• A small bunch of parsley, tough stalks removed and finely chopped

• Juice of ½ lemon

• 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


1. Put the beans in a saucepan with the bouquet garni and enough water to cover by about 5cm (2in).

2. Bring to a simmer and then cook until tender when pressed with a fork – how long this will take depends on how fresh the beans are. Allow 25-40 minutes.

3. While the beans are cooking, melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat and sauté the onions and leek with the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, chilli flakes and salt and pepper until the onions are soft and beginning to caramelise. This should take about 25 minutes.

4. Drain the beans and add them to the onion mix. Cook, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes.

5. Add the sage and parsley, season and give everything a good stir.

6. Squeeze over the lemon juice and trickle on the olive oil.

CLIMBING BEANS (Phaseolus vulgaris)NOT RUNNERS – Blue Lake, Borlotti Stoppa, Buscomb, Dutch, Epicure, Market Wonder, Yellow Pole, Purple Pod.

I have been increasingly growing climbing beans and climbing peas, rather than dwarf ones, simply because you get more beans for the same area of ground. This is the permaculture principle of ‘Layers’, in other words growing three-dimensionally like in a forest. If you grow your beans up canes built in a tent shape, the gap underneath is great for growing salad and spinach crops that prefer shade in the summer heat. You can also grow climbing beans up a trellis or wires attached to a sun-facing wall, or up a pergola or other structure.

Most of the climbing bean’s pods can be eaten fresh and the seeds can also be dried and then soaked and cooked for winter meals. Always grow too many to eat green and save the rest for drying and for sowing next year.


Bean seed lasts 2 years.

For early crops sow 2 seeds in seed compost in a cardboard toilet paper tube, or a 6cm pot, removing one seedling if 2 come up. For later crops, sow outside at the spacings below.

Planting out:

Build a ‘tent’ shape with two rows 60cm (2ft) apart, made of tall canes pushed into the soil at 30cm (1ft) apart and tied to a ridge cane. Then tie guy ropes from each end pegged down to secure the structure in high winds. Alternatively, build a wigwam of tall canes tied at the top and at 30cm (1ft) apart. Tie garden string to the bottom of each cane, then twist it around anticlockwise (the same way the beans grow) and tie at the top. This will provide something for the beans tendrils to grasp. You can also gently ease the tendrils behind the string to get them started.

First, harden off your seedlings by placing the pots or cardboard tubes in a cold frame, opening in the daytime and closing at night. Then plant out the cardboard tubes or transplant the seedlings from pots at the base of the canes at 30cm (1ft) apart.

Later Sowings:

For later crops sow 2 seeds against the base of each cane, thinning to one later. Soil, Feeding, and Harvesting: The same as for Broad and Dwarf beans. Possible Pests & Diseases: See above about growing Dwarf Beans.

DRYING BEANS (Phaseolus vulgaris)Duobokoi, Gila Indian, Pean, Selugia

These are beans that grow the seeds so fast you can’t eat the pods, but if you like to have a good supply of dried beans for the winter months, try these. They are great beans to grow up your maize or tall sweet corn plants. Personally I find the Pean tough and ‘windy’. Selugia on the other hand is more like Borlotti dried beans in taste and texture (sweet and floury) and crops well.

Soil, Feeding & Sowing:

As for beans above.

Harvesting: Leave all the beans on to dry, thresh, or hull, to use for next years seed and to use for soaking and cooking in the winter.

Selugia drying beans

Selugia drying beans

Scots White Runner Beans Drying

Scots White Runner Beans Drying

SCARLET RUNNERS (Phaseolus coccineus) – The Czar, Scots White, Painted Lady, Scarlet Runner

The last two are ordinary Runner beans. The first two varieties, however, are Runner beans that have seeds that look and taste like Butter beans (Lima beans Phaseolus lunatus), which is a bean that you can only be grown in the tropics.

These white seeded Runner beans, however, are hardy, but with white Butter bean type seeds. This is the only kind of runner bean we have grown for many years now, because it has both lovely green Runner beans as well as a good crop of ‘Butter beans’ to save for the winter. 

The problem with the pods of green runner beans is that they do not taste good when frozen, or salted in the traditional way – so, grow more than your summer needs for green pods and then save the rest to fully ripen for the white dried bean seeds that can be soaked and cooked up in the winter.

If it is a wet autumn and the pods won’t dry, harvest the pods and dry in a glass-house or plastic-tunnel house, or somewhere dry and warm; then thresh or hull out the seeds and store them in clean jars or paper bags in the kitchen cupboard until needed.

Varieties: of this unique Runner include: The Czar and Scot’s White.

For Soil, Feeding Sowing & Planting, and Harvesting see: CLIMBING BEANS

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See above about growing Dwarf Beans.


Runner beans with tomatoes

This simple side dish serves four.


• 3 tablespoons olive oil

• 2 red onions, diced

• 1 bay leaf

• 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced

• 500g (1 pound) runner beans, strings removed and cut diagonally into 3cm pieces

• 350g (12oz) cherry tomatoes, or quartered regular tomatoes

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 500ml (17floz) vegetable or chicken stock

• 2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano

• 1 small handful fresh parsley, tough stalks removed, and finely chopped


1. Warm the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the onions and bay leaf and fry, stirring from time to time, until the onions are soft – about five minutes.

2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a further minute, then add the beans and tomatoes, season well, and cook and stir for a couple of minutes.

3. Pour in the stock, add the oregano, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered until the beans are tender and most of the liquid has thickened into a sauce – about 20-25 minutes.

4. Stir in the parsley and season.

5. Serve hot or warm.

OKRA (Abelmoschus esculentus)

Okra comes from the Mallow family, sometimes known as ‘lady’s fingers’ or ‘gumbo’. This crop is only suitable for warm climates. The yield decreases dramatically when the average temperatures are below 210C (700F).

Here in Nelson, central New Zealand in a normal summer we can just about get away with it, but warmer would be better. So, if you have a warm or hot climate, with long summers, give them a try. In colder areas you will have to grow them in a glasshouse or Polytunnel.

The pods are usually eaten whole. The plants can grow up to 2 metres (6½ft) tall if the season is long enough where you are, but usually 1-1½ metres (3-5ft). Grow in the hottest sunniest position in the garden.

Soil & Feeding:

Add two buckets of garden compost and two handfuls of your favourite Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard) mixed into the top 6 cm (2½in).


Clemson Spineless: is the most commonly grown open pollinated variety grown. It has tender tasty medium green pods.


Okra seed lasts 2 years.

Okra does not like transplanting, so it is best to sow outside where it is going to grow, when the weather and soil have warmed up and the last frosts are a memory – in mid spring. Well-drained, fertile soil, are essential. Sow in shallow drills 90cm (3ft) apart, and when the plants are large enough to handle, thin them to 45cm (18in) apart in the rows.

They can also be sown in 8cm (3in) pots, as long as you wait until the roots have grown well before gently knocking out the root and soil and planting carefully in a hole of the same size, so as to minimise disturbance. Plant out in rows 90cm (3ft) apart with 45cm (18in) between the plants.


Keep the plants weed free. They need keeping on the dry side to prevent rotting, so if you mulch around them keep the mulch away from the stems – mulch with spray free straw or a 3cm (in) layer of grass clippings. Apply another two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre and water in, about a month after sowing, or water with a liquid organic fertiliser, either home made or bought, (see: the section ‘How to Build Soil Fertility’Liquid Manures).

Some people suffer an allergic reaction when working with Okra, so avoid handling when the crop is wet, and if you think you might have problems wear gloves.


Pick every two or three days when the pods are small. They can be stored in a cool place covered with a damp cloth until you have enough for a meal.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Aphids: Okra are susceptible to aphid attack – (see ‘Pests & Diseases’HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES for remedies).


Okra Masala

Serves 4


• 200-250g (7-9oz) okra

• 1 medium size onion, chopped

• 2 medium size tomatoes, chopped

• 1cm (½in) ginger and 2-3 garlic, crushed or made to a paste in a mortar-pestle or ½ or ¾ teaspoon ginger-garlic paste

• 1 teaspoon powdered coriander • ¼ or ½ teaspoon red chilli powder • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder

• ½ teaspoon Garam Masala powder

• ½ teaspoon dry mango powder

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 2 tablespoons oil for frying the okra

• 1 tablespoon oil for frying the onion-tomato masala


1. Rinse the okra well in water.

2. Dry them on a large plate on their own or wipe with a kitchen towel.

3. Remove the base and stalk while chopping the okra.

4. Chop into 2.5-5cm (1 or 2in) pieces.

5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok or pan.

6. Add the okra and sauté till they are completely cooked. You will have to keep an eye on them and stir in between many times. Taste the okra and if the crunchiness has gone and the okra have become soft, it means they are cooked.

7. All the oil will be used up so add 1 tablespoon of oil to the same pan.

8. Add chopped onions and fry till they become translucent.

9. Add the ginger-garlic paste and sauté for ½ a minute or till the raw aroma of the ginger-garlic disappears.

10. Add the chopped tomatoes and sauté till the tomatoes are soft and mushy. If the tomato mixture becomes too dry add about ¼ or ½ cup water and continue to cook.

11. All the above cooking is done in a open pan and you don't need to cover the pan with the lid.

12. Add all the dry spice powders one by one. Stir well and sauté for a minute.

13. Add the sautéed okra & salt and mix so that the onion-tomato masala coats the okra well. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring in between.

14. Serve the okra masala hot or warm garnished with some coriander leaves and accompanied with chapatis, rotis or nān bread.

I haven’t included a traditional gumbo recipe here, because there are many to choose from, and they are easy to find, but I have included a recipe for a vegetarian version.

Vegetarian Gumbo

Serves 6


First part:

• 2 tablespoons ghee, or butter

• Pinch of hing (optional)

• 1½ cups (175g) finely chopped celery

• 1 cup (140g) finely chopped green peppers • ½ cup (120ml) minced fresh parsley

• 1½ teaspoons dried thyme (or 3 teaspoons chopped fresh)

• 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh)

Second part:

• 1 ½ cups (350g) chopped tomatoes

• 2 ½ cups (600ml) vegetable stock

• 2 bay leaves

• 1-2 teaspoons black pepper

• 2 teaspoons rapadura (or brown sugar)

Third part:

• 1 tablespoon ghee, or butter

• Pinch of hing (optional)

• 2 cups diced tofu (440g)

• Salt to taste

Fourth part:

• 1 tablespoon ghee, or butter

• Pinch of hing (optional

• 3 cups (400g) okra cut into 1½cm (½in) pieces

• Salt to taste

Fifth part:

• Cooked brown Basmati rice


1. Melt the ghee (butter) in a soup pot. Add the hing and sauté over low heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the celery, bell peppers, parsley, thyme and oregano. Cover and cook until very tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

2. Process the tomatoes and stock in a blender until smooth. Add to the cooking vegetables, Stir in the bay leaves, pepper and rapadura (or brown sugar). Bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

3. While the broth is simmering, heat the second amount of ghee (or butter) in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the hing and the tofu. Sprinkle with salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until nicely browned. Set aside.

4. Heat the third amount of ghee (or butter) in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the hing and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the okra, sprinkle with salt, and sauté stirring frequently, until tender.

5. Stir the okra into the broth. If you like your okra viscous and slimy, cover and simmer for up to an hour. Otherwise, stir in the tofu, and adjust the salt and pepper.

6. To serve, place a mound of rice on each dinner plate and spoon the gumbo over it.

PEAS (Pisum sativum)

What would we do without peas? Peas come in many forms – fresh Green peas, Snow peas, Petits pois, Sugar snap and dried peas. They can be eaten raw in salads, lightly cooked, or dried ones soaked and cooked for mushy peas, pease pudding or winter pea soup or ground into pea flour.

Soil & Feeding:

Peas, like all legumes make their own Nitrogen in their root nodules, with the help of Nitrogen fixing bacteria and therefore require little extra feeding. Indeed, too rich feeding leads to lots of foliage and a smaller crop of peas.

The best plot to grow peas in is after a crop like potatoes that were heavily fed with rotted compost that will have lost a lot of its potency, but will still provide an open soil structure with good water retention. They do like a pH of 6.4, so add some garden lime if the pH is lower.

Progress: is another old tried and tested variety, developed by the renowned pea breeder Thomas Laxton in the nineteenth century. Pea 'Progress No 9' is a prolific and early yielding wrinkle-seeded variety. It is a low-growing variety grows 40-50cm (16-20in) tall.

This fast growing, second early is heavy cropping, producing dark green plump pods that are 8-10cm (3-4in) long with 7 to 9 delicious peas per well-filled pod and is resistant to both Fusarium root rot and wilt. There is no need to stake its short vines, although the peas are easier to harvest when supplied with a small trellis or a fence. Harvest continuously when ripe to encourage greater yields. 58 to 65 days to maturity.

Rondo: is a late main-crop crop variety. This is a high quality double podded variety with dark green straight, long pods that grow around 10-12cm (4-5in) long. The pods have as many as 8 to 10 peas. The peas have exceptional taste. They mature in approximately 75 days. This wrinkle seeded tall variety grows to a height of 80-90cm (31½-35in) and will benefit from support whilst growing, stake to 1M (39in).

They are resistant to fusarium. Regular watering when in flower will improve and lengthen the crop. Be prepared for a bumper harvest from this high yielding plant.

Sugar Snap Peas

Personally we prefer these to Snow and Mange Tout peas as they are much plumper and fleshier with peas growing inside. The whole pods and peas are eaten.

Sugar Snap Tall: A sweet crisp variety. Vines grow to 180cm (6ft) so will need support.

Petits Pois Petit Provencal: is a classic small green sweet and tender French Heirloom pea, edible in just 55 days. It is also tolerant of the cold.

Mange Tout Carouby: Unlike Snow Peas, which can get stringy and tough if left on the vine too long, these original mange tout stay sweet and tender, even if left too long. They also show good heat tolerance and are resistant to mildew.

Snow Peas

The pods need picking when still small to stop them getting tough. Eat them whole. Snow peas are also great for growing a micro crop of the young plants when they are about 8cm (3in) high.

Goliath: is a vigorous one metre high crop. The pods are slow to develop stringiness and are sweet and crisp in texture, but pick regularly to keep them tender.

Drying Peas

Blue Peas: These are one of the best and most productive drying peas we have come across. It is a so-called semi-leafless dwarf pea, which was developed for modern mechanical harvesting. They produce small round bluish-green peas. They prop themselves up. They make great mushy-peas, pease pudding and heart warming winter soups. If you have the space, grow this one.

Marrow Fat Peas: is an ancient variety, growing 1.5 metres (5ft) tall that needs a structure to grow on like runner beans. They can be used as dried peas for soups and stews, or to simmer down into a thick sauce called ‘mushy peas’, as well as for ordinary fresh peas. These peas were developed by the Capuchin Monks in Holland or France in the 16th century, and are known there as Capucijner Peas. They have two tone purple flowers; stunning purple pods brown squarish peas. They are especially good for soup and casserole dishes.


Pea seeds last 2 years.

Everybody wants an early crop, but peas can often rot off particularly if the soil is cold and wet. There are two ways around this. When we lived in the Welsh borders of the UK, where the spring was late and often frosty, cold and wet, we used these methods:

Early Sowing

1. In late winter or early spring, obtain a 1 metre length, or several lengths, of plastic guttering and line with 2 or 3 layers of newspaper and dampen it with a watering can with the rose on. Three quarters fill the length of the guttering with seed compost and sow the peas at 5cm intervals along one side and another staggered row opposite at 5cm (2in) apart. Then cover with more compost and lightly water.

It also helps to cover the outside strip where the peas were to eventually grow with cloches, or a black strip of plastic held down with stones, to warm the soil.

Keep your gutter or several gutters in a glasshouse or Polytunnel until the peas are about 8cm (3in) tall. Using a board as a guide, make a straight furrow with a draw hoe. Slide the entire contents into the prepared furrow, firm and water well.

2. Another method is to pre-germinate the peas in damp newspaper in a warm room indoors. Calculate how many you will need – a double row 5cm (2in) apart with the seeds at 5cm (2in) spacings means for every metre of row you will need 40 seeds.

Soak the seeds in a jar of water for over night, then drain and place between several layers of damp newspaper on a tray. Keep the newspaper damp, but not wet in a warm room, until the pea roots have grown about 1 cm (⅜in).

Again it is helpful to warm up the row where the peas are to grow, (see the illustration right). 

Draw a wide flat-bottomed furrow 2cm (¾in) deep with a draw hoe and sow the sprouted seeds 5cm (2in) apart in 2 staggered rows 5cm (2in) apart. Cover with soil and lightly water.

Later Sowings

For the dwarf varieties of peas 45-60cm (18-24in) high, we like to sow outside in spacings as above in diagonal rows joined at the points. As above, draw out a flat-bottomed furrow with a draw hoe and sow the seeds as above. This allows for a continuous row of chicken netting in a W shape back and forth across the bed held up by bamboo canes woven through the netting and pressed into the soil for support. The triangular spaces in-between can be planted with a few dwarf beans, or lettuce. Just sow the dry peas, cover with soil and water well and then fix the netting up.

However, since it is common to prune dormant trees about the same time that you plant peas, it is a tradition to use branches, stuck into the ground along your pea row, as support for peas, especially the shorter growing varieties. You can also use other items for support - lattice, netting, twine, or field fencing.

For climbing varieties grow up strings attached to a tent shaped structure of bamboos or other canes, stretching the strings from the top bar down a peg in the soil. Sow the seeds in a line along the bottom of the strings.


Peas love regular watering, and if you are growing them in the height of summer it is better to give the plants the shade of taller crops, such as runner beans, or broad beans.


Just keep picking them regularly before the peas get woody in the pods. For dried peas leave them on as long as possible to dry out on the vine. If late summer or autumn is wet, you can pull up the vines and hang them in a dry shed or glasshouse to dry before shucking the peas and storing them in paper bags somewhere cool and dry for cooking later or for saving seed.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Mildew: This is the most common disease of peas, especially on late crops as the weather cools and becomes damper. Mulching helps, and hand watering around the base of the plants whilst avoiding water on the leaves. Also if you see the first signs, spraying once a week with milk and water 50/50 is a very effective preventative that is being increasingly used by commercial organic growers, as well as to control mildew on cucumbers and pumpkin leaves. Also spraying with Trichoderma viride (see: ‘Pests & Diseases’THE NEW GENERATION OF BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS) will help to control it, but catch it early, or better still, spray as a preventative, before there are any signs on late crops.


Here are two recipes for both fresh and dried peas, one exotic and the other, traditional country food:

Jewish Egg & Peas

Feeds 4


• 2 cups of shelled peas

• 60ml (2floz) water

• 60ml (2floz) extra virgin olive oil (or melted butter)

• ¼ teaspoon each of nutmeg mace and black pepper

• Sugar and salt to taste • 5 eggs • 1/3 cup of cream


1. Cook the peas with spices, water, oil and ¼ teaspoon salt in a covered frying pan (or enamelled pan that looks good enough to be served at the table)

2. When half cooked season with more salt and a little sugar if necessary.

3. With the back of a spoon, make 4 depressions in the peas and slip an egg into each one

4. Replace the cover of the pan and continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the peas are done and the eggs are set, but not hard

5. Meanwhile break the fifth egg and the cream into a cup and beat up

6. Pour over the eggs and peas, and put under a hot grill for a moment or two to set

7. Serve immediately

Pease Pudding

Feeds 4

This is traditional English medieval warming winter food and was made from dried peas that had their skins removed and the pea split in two – hence the name. However it is quite possible to use whole dried peas that you have saved yourself. The whole cooked peas can be mashed up with a potato masher, Mouli or a stick blender. 


• 225g (8oz) dried peas

• 1 large onion, peeled and chopped

• 50g (1¾oz) butter (or coconut oil)

• 1 egg

• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Soak the dried peas for 24 hours, or over night, until swollen

2. Drain and rinse them and put in a saucepan just covered with cold water

3. Simmer the peas gently until they are tender, then drain off any excess water and allow to cool

4. Use a potato masher to mash the peas, or put through a Mouli sieve, or use a stick blender

5. Fry the chopped onion in the butter for about 10 minutes, until soft, then add to the mashed cooked peas, together with the egg and the sea salt and ground pepper to taste, and mix together

6. Put the mixture in a greased casserole or bread tin and bake in a moderate oven, 180oC (3560F) for about 30 minutes

7. Serve slices with chutney, baked potatoes and cabbage, for a winter warmer

SWEET CORN (Zea mays)

Soil & Feeding:

Maize is one of the most ravenous of crops to grow, so ideally they should have 2 buckets of well rotted manure or compost + 2 handfuls of your favourite Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard), forked in.


I tend to stay away from the modern over-sweet varieties in favour of the traditional ones than can be both eaten fresh and dried for maize grain.

Golden Bantamn: is a classic traditional sweet corn for eating fresh with lots of butter and black pepper.

Early Gem: does not have such a good flavour as Golden Bantamn, but in colder areas with a shorter growing season this is probably the one for you.

Blue Aztec: Any edible vegetable plant with red or purple colouring tends to have much higher levels of anti-oxidants than those that do not. Admittedly, purple-grey polenta made from Blue Aztec maize can be a little off-putting, but the taste is exceptional. It is also good eaten fresh as sweet corn at the milk stage, with the kernel being sweet, tender and very tasty. This corn is believed to have originated in upper New York, possibly grown by the Iroquois nation. The 2m (6½ft) tall stalks produce large ears. When mature, the corn turns blue-black and makes very delicious corn bread. This corn is hardy and grows in a wide range of conditions.

Blue Hopi: was developed by the Hopi Indians to be used as flour corn, and is the corn used to make the blue corn chips available commercially. The cobs grow large (long) and the plants are drought tolerant, and when ground they produce high quality flour. Excellent for posole, tortillas, polenta and porridge.


Corn seeds last 1-2 years.

Later sowings can be done outside, but if you are going to sow early you need to remember corn does not like being transplanted. The way around this is to sow in cardboard tubes or 8cm (3in) peat pots, which can then be transplanted out where they will rot as the plants grow. I sow ours in the early spring in cardboard toilet role centres with some kitchen paper towel stuffed down the bottom and filled with seed compost, with 2 seeds in each one, 2½cm (1in) deep. All the tubes are then propped up in a seed box or tray, watered and placed in a greenhouse, conservatory, or on a windowsill. Thin the seedlings to one when they are up. In warm/hot areas or for later crops they can be sown direct outside.


Always plant in blocks, because maize plants are wind pollinated and there is a better chance of good pollination if they are grown in a block, whichever way the wind is blowing at the time. Plant out well after the last frosts in the prepared bed in blocks, with 60cm between the plants each way, staggered, so in each row the plants are planted opposite the space in the previous row.

When sowing later crops outside, sow 2 seeds 2½cm (1in) deep 60cm (2ft) apart each way in blocks, thinning to one seedling.


This is one of the crops that benefit from a good Nitrogen rich liquid feed every two weeks during the growing period, and liquid comfrey and/or liquid seaweed every two weeks as the cobs swell – see the section: ‘How to Build Soil Fertility’ - Liquid Manures.

Our favourite way of growing sweet corn/maize is the traditional way from Middle America – ‘The Three Sisters’. At the same time as the maize is planted out or sown, so is squash sown or planted at the corners of the bed. These then cover the ground as a growing mulch between the maize plants. When the maize plants are 15-20cm (6-8in) high, climbing beans are sown near each corn plant so they can climb up the plants for support.


Fresh Sweet Corn: When the tassels at the top of the cobs have turned brown, have a sneak preview by pulling the covering sheath down a bit so you can examine the seeds in the cob. If they look plump and full, bend the cob down to break it off the plant. The important thing is harvesting while the seeds in the cob are full but still young and fresh and haven’t got too starchy.

Dry Corn: For a crop of dry seed to grind into maize meal, you need to leave the cobs on as long as possible into the autumn. The tassels will have turned dark and the seeds in the cob will have become hard to the touch. If the weather remains damp, then harvest the cobs; peel off the outer sheath to expose the seeds and finish drying in a greenhouse, tunnel house or conservatory.

When the seeds are really hard you can shuck them. Unless you have a corn shucker you will have to do it by hand. I was amazed when I first shucked my corn by hand, how easy it was. To do this, you simply grasp a thoroughly dry ear of corn horizontally in front of you (as if it were the handle of a lawn mower) and, while holding it over a container of some kind, twist your hands back and forth in opposite directions. The kernels will be rubbed from the cob and fall into the container — right along with tiny flecks of skin scraped painfully from your palms and fingers. So before you start, wear a pair of tough gardening or leather gloves, this will give you a better grip and save your hands.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Corn is generally trouble free here in New Zealand as well as Europe. Those pests that do exist here are conveniently divided into those that primarily affect the seedling stage, up to six weeks from planting, and those that attack the leaves and fruiting bodies on established plants. In the Americas and Australia there are various diseases and pests of maize and sweet corn, so you will need to do some research and use some of the remedies in the section, ‘Pests & Diseases’.


Sweet Corn Pakoras


• 125g (4½oz) chick-pea flour

• 1 tablespoon kalinji (onion) seeds

• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

• A pinch cayenne pepper

• ½ teaspoon ground coriander

• ½ teaspoon ground cumin

• ½ teaspoon turmeric

• A pinch asafoetida (hing)

• ½ teaspoon sea salt

• ¼ teaspoon baking powder

• 100ml (3½floz) cold water

• 350g (12oz) shucked sweet corn (see below)

• Ghee for deep-frying


1. Over a bowl, use a knife, sliding the blade down the corncob, just under the berries, continuing around the cob until all the berries are cut off – continue until you have 350g (12oz) shucked sweet corn

2. Ghee for deep of berries.

3. Sift the chickpea flour into a large bowl and add the spices, salt and baking powder. Slowly add the cold water and whisk until you have a thick batter.

4. Put the ghee over a medium-high heat. The ghee is hot enough when a drop of batter put into it rises immediately to the surface and sizzles.

5. Pour enough of the batter into another bowl with the corn in until there is enough to cover the seeds.

6. With a desert spoon take a spoonful and carefully drop the contents into the batter and add several more.

7. When golden-brown and crisp, scoop out the pakoras with a slotted spoon onto some kitchen paper towel to drain.

8. Fry all the pakoras this way, never putting in more than one layer at a time.

9. Serve with spiced yogurt, chutney and chapati.