Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reflecting on broad beans

click photo to enlarge
As I stood podding broad beans the other day I reflected that the reward for the tedium of the activity is the shiny perfection of the individual seeds as they multiply in the dish, along with the prospect of eating this simple but wholesome food, both freshly picked and, during the coming months, from the freezer. There are those who are somewhat disdainful of this "peasant food" and others who are insistent that after they are podded the skin of each bean must be removed. Those are not views that I share. In fact, the broad bean is a favourite of mine, one that I relish eating in the summer months, with its skin intact. That they are easy to grow, crop heavily, add nitrogen to the soil, and look appealing would be reason enough to grow them. However, I like the taste and texture when raw and cooked, and that's why we've grown them for forty or so years.

"Broad bean" is the English name for Vicia faba, but elsewhere "fava bean" is common. In Britain the plant is grown for human consumption. A smaller variety, usually called the field bean, is grown for animal feed. It's interesting to note that this inexpensive food of the common people gave its name to the Fabian Society, the organisation that created Britain's Labour Party. The Fabian Society called itself after the Fabii of ancient Rome, a family that Plinius said derived their name from the humble bean of today's reflection.

Whether it's the satisfaction that comes from growing your own food or the pristine nature of freshly picked produce, I often feel motivated to record it on camera. The other day it was broad beans of the varieties, "Bunyard's Exhibition" and "Red Epicure", but over the years I've photographed mixed vegetables, sweet peppers, plums, bay leaves, strawberries, and much else.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f16
Shutter Speed: 0.8 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off