Castro Marim on a Bicycle – one perfect day

Castro Marim on a Bicycle – one perfect day

Castro Marim on a Bicycle - 00a of 03 - RQ

It was my final day in the Algarve. I would be leaving the next day for two weeks in England where the temperature is 14 degrees rather than 34 and where something called ‘rain’ is still occurring with frequency. So, what better excuse for a full day out on the bikes.

The 2nd Saturday of the month is Castro Marim market day, which is not vastly different to any other monthly market in the Algarve, but we particularly like Castro Marim; for its sleepiness, castles and the fabulous Medieval Days festival which take place each August. I am always astonished how such a small and sedate town can pull off such a brilliantly orchestrated event.

Castro Marim on a Bicycle - 01 of 03 - RQ
We set off later than usual, as always full of good intentions and commitments to getting going before it gets too hot, but perpetually fail due to idleness, morning swims and lazy breakfasts on the terrace. It’s easy to slip into a slow pace of life when everything is just so damned good. We have recently taken to Instagram and so nowadays our every journey is punctuated by photo stops, where the ruined cottage is particularly picturesque and the flowers especially cascading. The usual route of choice is the Ecovia, a favourite place to cycle across saltpans and through quiet fields and trees, but today we are mavericks and took a turn off the N125 past Altura into the hinterland of Sao Bartholomeu towards Azinhal to sneak round the back, cut the corner of Vila Real and emerge in Castro Marim. It’s a lovely stretch of road for a bicycle – some undulation but nothing too painfully hilly. Whilst Keith loves the challenge of altitude with its steep climbs and death-defying downs, I prefer a more moderate terrain – too flat is dull and too much up and down is equally tedious. I’m not made for hills: I’m a plodder, a shire horse of the cycling world that can go on forever but not at great velocity.

Castro Marim on a Bicycle - 02 of 03 - RQ
Due to our typically tardy departure, we fortunately arrived in Castro Marim in time for lunch, which in the market is restricted to the limited menu of olives, bread and chicken straight from the grill. Although we eat little meat at home because we don’t feel the need, we have yet to take the full plunge into the veganism we feel to be a better way to live. To be honest, the existence of grilled chicken is not helping. We make verbal justifications about ‘protein’ and ‘energy loss’ due to cycling and we sit back and tuck in. I think I love this place because it reminds me of Morocco, which I also adore and almost lived in. Whilst taking in the smells, sights, singing and general atmosphere, we talk about how maybe, just maybe, the Algarve really is the perfect place for us. It has all the best of Europe with a dash of Morocco. We ponder whether we really could make the move further north, as we sometimes threaten to do in search of more (affordable) land and rain to make the growing easier. That’s for another day. Today we are glad to be here.

Castro Marim on a Bicycle - 03 of 03 - RQ

And then it is time for the beach on our meander home. The Eastern Algarve coastal stretch from Vila Real to Manta Rota really feels like a secret. I almost expect people to be whispering and tiptoeing around, just in case anyone else should get wind of the place. Today we stop at Altura and its beach, Algoa, but anywhere along here would serve us just as well. The sand, the sea, the long, long convivial lunches in the seafood restaurants; the mood is peaceful rather than hectic. Having transported our parasols in our panniers like masts this far, it’s time to set up camp on the sand for a snooze and a swim and to make some vague post-lunch plans about 2 month cycle rides around Portugal and lengthy trips to the Azores. Everything feels possible today.

Home beckons as I have to pack and the garden needs a watering, so off we pedal; a little sandy, a little sore and a lot tired. We have covered 60km in the heat, sometimes helped and hindered by a strong northerly wind. The final 10km are the hardest; the climb back up into the hills is too much for me at times. I send Keith off to make his way home at his own pace and I walk and freewheel my way back, enjoying it all in the isolation of the empty serra roads. It seems that today I may have enjoyed myself for too long because as I made my final approach to Casa Torta, I was met by Keith coming the other way in the car, having become worried about my extended absence, he having arrived home 15 minutes before. I don’t know what he was worrying about, I was getting there. Maybe he needs to chill out a bit.

Learning Portuguese

Learning Portuguese

We’ve been in Portugal part-time for a year now and for most of that time we’ve made learning the lingo a big priority, but it’s not easy. Keith, my beloved, isn’t the world’s greatest linguist, having sent our first teacher into despair with his incessant engineer/scientist need to know ‘why’ teacups are feminine and flowers are not. Our teacher said that one lesson with Keith was more exhausting that four lessons with other students. We, not feeling that this was a way to encourage a student, gave him the heave-ho and found someone with more patience (or Valium). I was doing a bit better and got to the advanced stage of being able to take a radiator back to the shop and tell them that it only had three wheels instead of the requisite four and negotiating a replacement. Our lack of any victims to practise on is out main problem. We live in a rural location and have no cause to speak to random strangers in public apart from at our local bar, and even then it’s difficult to strike up some small talk when the chance of me knowing what is said back to me is slim.

In a bid to get more exposure to listening to the language, I have been watching Portuguese TV on Youtube, namely Chef’s Academy, which is the local equivalent of Master Chef. I can’t work out why it’s called Chef’s Academy and not something in Portuguese, but there we go. It’s a vaguely familiar format, where a presumably celebrity chef demonstrates three dishes simultaneously whilst the contestants watch on scribbling furiously in their notebooks before having a go themselves and the  getting horrendously slated by the judges. What makes it useful as a learning tool is that it is very visual and relatively limited in communication with not much of a plot to follow. What makes it useless is that all I am learning is a wide vocabulary of cooking terminology. Well, it’s a start.

Weirdly, I feel more comfortable here than I do in the UK. It’s almost as though there is liberation in not knowing what the hell is going on, which, rather than get anxious about, makes me brave and fearless. I am undoubtedly more sociable and willing to speak to new people in Portuguese than I am in English. Poor buggers.

This past week, I have taken my efforts to have something useful to say to the friendly people at our bar rather than the bog standard greetings to a new level. I have been at the Cial Language School in Faro for a week studying Portuguese for 6 hours each day. I don’t recall ever being so uttlery exhausted, close to  tears, migraine and nausea. Don’t let any of that put you off – it’s been fantastic on all counts except those. The school operates a variety of options from group classes to individual lessons and I opted for a mix of both, hence the language overkill. Most people do a 3 hour group class in the morning as I did, but I added a 2 hour individual lesson in the afternoon, which with hindsight was a bit much.

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The school itself was a warm and positive experience with students from all over the world (me being the only British person there) and of all ages and levels each wanting to learn Portugues for different reasons – some just for the fun of it. I was the only person living in Portugal. I am told that in the summer the demongraphic is younger and groups are larger. I have spent the week with two Swiss people in my class, both older than me, both serious and committed learners but both happy to go out for lunch (still speaking Portuguese, which the youngsters appear not to to) and crack a joke or two.

I already had a basis in Portuguese from my Skype lessons with a tutor, but have found the opportunity to speak to a number of people in the group and the school has had an amazing effect on my ability. The lessons follow a course in the form of a book, exercises and discussion with opportunities for reading, speaking, writing and listening. All of the teachers I came into contact with were full of energy and interest. I can’t praise the place highly enough.

Next week I return home to inflict my new found grammatical abilities on an unsuspecting population out in the hills. I can start asking questions about growing vegetables. Now what is the word for aubergine…

Darling, Bring Me A Pan, It’s Raining In The Kitchen

Darling, Bring Me A Pan, It’s Raining In The Kitchen

Darling, Bring Me A Pan - 01

Well, it’s a bit different from last May (2015) when we were basking in 30+ degrees at this time of year. The rain has been incessant this past week. Heavy, prolonged and at times downright cantankerous: stopping and starting every time I go to put a welly on or take a welly off. We scoffed at how much use those wellies would get when we bought them last year and now we can’t leave the house without needing them as our path is 2 inches deep in water.

Darling, Bring Me A Pan - 02

Yes, yes, it’s good for the garden and given the drought in Portugal in 2015, it is certainly welcome and needed, but when exactly is enough? The tanks are full; the plants are happy – not all: the baby pumpkins have got rotten and shrivelled – and we are fed up of being indoors.

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We are partly fed up of being indoors because it is raining in here too. Our house is old and roofed only with some tiles, a waterproof membrane and some canes. The membrane has holes in places and therefore naturally fails to live up to its ‘waterproof’ status in those parts. It’s strange that if in England our flat were to have water dripping through the ceiling, we would panic, believe the roof be about to fall in and rush to find a person to rub his/her chin thoughtfully and charge us a considerable amount to fix it. Here: we just put some pans under the drips and make sure we don’t leave laptops or phones on the kitchen table. We eat meals to the sound of the drips and casually mop up any that fail to hit the saucepan target. Why do we react so differently here? Is it just that we know the sun will come and dry it all up any moment now, or that our possessions and life here are so much simpler and smaller (no carpet, for a start) that a few puddles here and there are really not a problem. Or is it that we have changed just by being here? I have noticed other inconsistencies between our UK and our Algarve life: we are happy to live with geckos, centipedes, and ants on occasion, where in England we would freak out at sharing the bathroom with another pair of eyes. These things are just part of the deal in a rural setting and more than just tolerate them; we welcome them. We say good morning to Colin the gecko who lives in the bathroom and watch for hours the ants with their astonishing weightlifting capabilities. It was only the Yellow Banded Centipede who moved into the kitchen cupboard who met with a sorry end (they can cause coma with a single nip).

This afternoon between showers we ventured out, Vitamin D depleted and bored, for a walk in the hills. Usually silent, the sound of gushing streams and even waterfalls assaulted our ears and we were halted in our progress by a typically bone dry riverbed which had flooded the road creating a torrent. One of Keith’s wellies has a split so we couldn’t go any further. What a difference a few days downpour makes.

Darling, Bring Me A Pan - 04

So, whilst we ponder on the rain from inside and out, it serves to remind us that a few drips in a pan aren’t really that important in the grand scheme of things, and that maybe this carefree attitude to the small things is a good one to take on board for life in general. We still have a roof of sorts, some wellies of a sort and a beautiful place to live. That is, until you realise that you’ve left your sandals outside, again and that you’d like to cook some dinner but there are no saucepans left.

And breathe…

Do Triffids Like Nespera Jam?

 

We have recently returned from three weeks away from Casa Torta to find that Things Have Been Growing. We’ve been away for this length of time before but I don’t recall such a rapid change in the undergrowth. It must be the time of year. The broad beans are now of a greater population than that of the neighbouring village, and almost as big as a person. After picking them all (except for a few left to go to seed), the total yield was over 43kg, that’s over 700g per plant. Articles I had read suggested 300g of beans per plant would be reasonable, so I am very proud. Given that this is  our first permaculture bed effort in a wintery Algarve, not known for its easy gardening. Phew! That’s a lot of soup/puree/ etc. Anyway, enough about the beans; I’m not obsessed with them, really. And I haven’t named any of them. OK?

Photo of a hand holding a large broad bean pod

 

Photo of Broad Bean Salad

 

The other major growth in the garden is this stonking protuberance from the centre of our largest cactus, which I presume to be an agave. This entire stalk has emerged over a three week period, which demonstrates a pretty significant growth rate as it is must be around 8m tall. I am convinced that if I stand and watch it for long enough, I should be able to see it move. Cue much standing and staring at a stalk. Rest assured, Keith and I have pondered how we might measure its rate of growth, but have failed to work out how. Marking the stalk was an option, but getting to the stalk is a less attractive prospect, given the spikes. We’ve no idea how long it will take to do its thing, but wouldn’t be surprised to wake up and find that it’s moved into the house and is making itself a cup of tea. We have seen others around the hills all producing similar masts. It must be the time of year that they take over. Triffid nightmares are expected.

Photo of agave cactus with flower stem

Aside from trying to harvest, eat and/or freeze all of the broad beans before they burst, I have also been keen to use up the nespera on the tree, as I hate things going to waste and I love food that is free. Salt of Portugal tell a lovely legend/tale as to how these Chinese fruits came to be in Portugal. Much as I love to eat these little plums straight off of the tree, we are talking 100+ here and even I would struggle to get through that many – in between trips to the bathroom, I should expect.

 

Photo of nespera in a bowl

 

So, jam it is, then. Having searched the internet for recipes – it’s a simple process involving fruit and sugar and nothing else – I came across Azores Gal’s recipe for Nespera Jam and her tip for using the hand blender to mush them all up before sieving the skins out. It worked a treat – no pectin needed as you don’t peel the fruit and it thickened easily and within half an hour post sieving. I shan’t bother to replicate her instructions here as she has done such a great job of explaining – with images – how to do it, I shall let her get on and do so. The resulting jam is simply beautiful to look at and really delicious; a kind of cross between quince jelly, marmalade and mango chutney. It could be eaten with both sweet and savoury accompaniments or just straight out of the jar with a spoon.

Photo of two jars of nespera jam

 

Perhaps the triffid would like some. I come in peace.

Growing Tea And Being Wrong About Things

Growing Tea And Being Wrong About Things

Now, I’ve never been a fan of herbal teas; especially the flowery ones. They taste like hot, weak squash (cordial) to me. Insipid, weedy and pointless. I’m a caffeine sensitive individual and have delighted in the wide spread of Redbush tea, which I drink with milk like a normal cuppa without the palpitations (even decaff tea gives me the jitters). I can even dunk biscuits in it. That’s my kind of tea. My opinions on herb tea are long established and generally not open to challenge. And if this were one of those sensible ‘Life Lesson’ kind of blogs, there would be a deep message here about being open to new experiences because being closed and certain means you miss out on good stuff, but it’s not that sort of blog, so we’re good. But, it is true. Best to say Yes to everything just in case. Everything except drug smuggling and Marmite, that is. No good ever came from either of those.

 

Anyway, on a recent visitation to a new permaculture friend, Victoria, we were offered a cup of Olive Leaf Tea. Given my general thoughts and opinions on herb teas, I was not hopeful and said yes out of politeness and a lack of any alternative. Keith, who is a tried and tested Northern tea addict, who intersperses each and every activity in his life with a cup of tea – even immediately after a cup of coffee, was even more reticent that I. Long story short, it was alright. It transpires that Olive Leaf Tea is a thing and can be purchased online should one be unfortunate enough to live in the vicinity of an olive tree (gloat). It has been used medicinally since Ancient Egyptian times and used to mummify pharaohs, should that be a selling point for a decent brew. The list of medical benefits is lengthy and includes reported aid for urinary tract infections, candida and aching joints. On a next holiday to anywhere Mediterranean, may I suggest that you forego the bottle of Ouzo and max out your baggage allowance with a bag or two of olive leaves snaffled from the many trees which undoubtedly surround you.

Growing Your Own Tea -01

The leaves are picked and dried in either the oven on a very low heat or the sun if you have sufficient and crumbled into a teapot and steeped for a few minutes before straining. They have a fresh and invigorating flavour, which we heartily recommend.

 

The other pearl of wisdom shared with us by Victoria was that of Nespera tea. Nespera is a fruit tree, also known as a loquat which grows copiously around southern Iberia and elsewhere in the world. The small yellow fruits are delicious and seen in markets in March and April around these parts. Chinese herbalists and scientists rate nespera extremely highly in terms of its curative properties for all sorts of health conditions, ranging from reducing diabetes, releasing anti-oxidants to increase the immune system, blood pressure management and even potentially supresing some symptoms of HIV. It is truly a wonder tree. Fresh leaves and teabags can be purchased online again should you be lacking in a nespera tree (2nd gloat of the day).

Growing Your Own Tea - 02

Once back at home, I began to prepare a Casa Torta estate brew from nespera, lemon and rosemary leaves, all dried in the spring sun. Let me tell you that Mr Tetley has nothing on me. It is a delicious, refreshing night-time cuppa with an undercurrent of citrus and a backnote of rosemary. I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about here, so I’ll stop, but it is really good.

 

So, what else can you make tea out of our should your leaf selection be limited by climate or location? Obviously, all commonly grown herbs such as thyme, mint, basil and lemon verbena can be brewed, but also plants such as certain types of lavender (not all – our Portuguese variety is too bitter and camphorous to drink), raspberry leaves, dandelion root, chamomile buds and passionflower leaves to mention a few. Some experimentation with blends and mixes may be required to adjust your brew to taste, but think of that: your own unique home-grown tea! Take care of course to ensure you know what you are putting in that pot – some plants are poisonous and will not result in a health benefit; quite the opposite. If anyone has recipes or suggestions for interesting blends, please share as I’m on a roll here with what could be a new obsession.

 

To say that we are converts is an understatement. It is not only the drinking of the tea, but the joy and satisfaction of the process of drying and crumbling the mix of leaves into my new glass ‘tea jar’ of which I am stupidly proud, steeping the leaves in a cafetiere due to a lack of tea pot before sitting up in bed and supping the bright green, steaming brew; it looks like absinthe but without the aftermath. Life doesn’t get much better than those moments and it just goes to show that sometimes you can be wrong about things and isn’t that wonderful? To know that there may be more discoveries and adventures out there that up until now I’ve been wrong about. See? There was a moral to this tale after all, I’m deeper than I look.

Photo of glass jar full of nespera leaf tea

This only goes to make me wonder what else I might be wrong about. Could it be that eating cake with my left hand doesn’t make it negative calories after all? Or that Marmite is nice? Get outta here…

Age Defying Dreams

Age Defying Dreams

So, we went for a walk one morning and we started talking, as we do, somehow always finding something to talk about together after all these years and with almost every hour of every day spent in each other’s presence. We ended up on the subject of whether there is any one right time, or age, for moving to a new country, doing some serious travelling or making a big life change, and how age can have an impact on the experience.

 

The inspiration for this conversation came from the past few weeks where we’ve met a number of new people who are all here in Portugal for the short or long term and who are all from different decades in their lives. Travellers and residents from their 20s up into 60s and beyond all turn up on these shores and have crossed our paths. Obviously, age does not entirely determine how someone will behave: we all know risk-averse youngsters and wild, crazy elders, but from our experiences these would be exceptions. We pondered where we fit in the scheme of things.

 

In comparison to the other foreigners living immediately around our neighbourhood, who arrived here in retirement in their 60s and upwards, we are the youngsters, roughing it and foolishly cycling up hills in the midday sun. They lead a life of lunches, golf and quiet pursuits, often choosing fellow English speakers for pals and often grumbling about the natives who, they live in proximity to but in total isolation from. The bulk of their lives were spent in their home countries and this life is a welcome retreat funded by pensions and a life of hard work. They live in lovely villas and don’t want to garden or decorate: someone else can be paid to do that. Eventually, many of them will return home due to health, finance or sheer boredom. There is only so much the sun can entertain.

 

Last week we met two women travelling who were in their 20s. One of them had rolled into town alone on the Solstice and immediately hooked up with some other young folks who were organising a party and spent a few days with them. It sounded like this kind of thing happens to her almost every day. No big deal. That all stops when you get older: other 40 somethings just don’t invite you to hang out with them; they/we are all too busy/sensible/fearful of doing such a thing with strangers. These women are happy to share a dorm room and live with basic comforts, whereas although we live a simple life, we shudder at the idea of being kept awake by noisy strangers in a hostel. They have no plans or cares in the world about health, mortgages or how to survive; everything seems possible and it can wait until they’ve finished hanging out here for a while. What’s the hurry? They are low on resources but long on time.

Age Defying Dreams – 02

We belong in a different gang to either of these, which is perhaps less typical. Most of the world’s wanderers are either young and yet to be worn down by the world, or older and enjoying the fruits of their labours. We are still in our working years, requiring income, but wanting to spend our working life doing it our way. Our requirements also differ from those both younger and older. We want more than a hostel and less than a villa. We desire a slightly more luxurious than basic lifestyle; to run a car and to drink good coffee to name but a few. We are neither mobile nor static: we want to put down roots, but we might dig them up and replant them elsewhere in years to come. We don’t want to seek solely English speaking interactions, we want to learn a new language and feel somewhat brave and willing to engage with our community, however long and faltering the steps to do so might be. We want to grow food, create a home and appreciate many joyful sunsets over our hills. We don’t have the casual encounters that our new young friends are having nor seek the ex-pat pals of our older neighbours, but we do try to meet people through voluntary work exchanges where we work on their land and with their animals in exchange for meals and vegetables. Our relative youth and physicality enables us to forge these relationships with like-minded souls in a way that wouldn’t be available to us if we had less physical well-being. We visit our local bar with frequency in order to show our faces, support the place and find rare opportunities to inflict our Portuguese on the captive audience. We are somewhere in the middle in age, courage, energy and aspirations.

Age Defying Dreams – 03

The correlation between risk taking and age seems to be inversely proportionate. Speaking to people casually, I hear that their priorities change as their lives move on. Conversation topics involve concerns about health, safety and financial security which feature less when talking with the young. The older we are, we appear more cautious and fearful of new people and new experiences, despite life being no more or less dangerous than it is at any age. I would like to say that it’s all in the mind, but I’m not sure that is entirely true. I think it is partly in the body. Whilst, Keith and I feel young, able and reckless in comparison to some of our neighbours, we feel old, achy and sensible next to these much younger travellers. For us, approaching 50, mortality bites and our increasing physical limitations are apparent to us, if not debilitating. We already know people of our age who are debilitated. We become scared at the prospect. As our bodies begin to show signs of fatigue and fragility, we become naturally more physically cautious, and perhaps more mentally cautious by default. We increasingly say No to the world, instead of Yes. No creates certainty, predictability and safety, but can also foster fear, boredom and a closed mind. Yes brings risk, possibility and new encounters. Instead of our awareness of time being limited making us braver and intent on making the most of the time and health we have, we try to preserve and protect our minds and our bodies by wrapping them up in cotton wool. This, I feel, is a big mistake.

 

‘But what if something terrible happens?’ you may say. ‘But what if something amazing happens?’ I reply.

 

There is no right time to travel, move or explore, but we must be mindful that the longer we leave it; perhaps the less likely we are to take that leap; if we are even capable of leaping by that time. We need to keep both our bodies and our minds open to all possibilities and recognise that some of our objections, excuses and self-imposed negativity really is all in our minds.

Age Defying Dreams – 04

Of course, we should take care and know our physical limitations, but at the same time continue to stretch our mental limitations. Age should be no barrier to an open mind, regardless of physical health. And if any 20 something wants to invite me to an all night Solstice party, then I’d be delighted. As long as there’s a flushing toilet and comfy chair, I’m there.

 

Do you think that we limit ourselves as we age? And if so, why do you think this is?

21st Century Broad Beans

21st Century Broad Beans

Spring is a beautiful time of year here and the hillsides are ablaze with colour and the swallows and bee-eaters have returned. Our layered beds are planted, our fingers are crossed and we’re hopeful of some kind of harvest.

Photograph of colourful spring flowers in the Algarve countryside

This is our first year of determined growing efforts and we have bought/sowed one of almost every edible species going in order to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. It’s like the Noah’s Ark of gardening. Luckily, trees, plants and seeds are incredibly cheap in Portugal and so this feels possible without any huge financial risk. Our newly planted ‘vineyard’ (it is a patch of ground with vines in it, therefore it is a vineyard) cost €24 for 12 vines. They have more than paid for themselves already through the joy and anticipation we have had in peering closely at this pile of sticks protruding from the earth all winter pining desperately for a sign that reassures us that we are not the laughing stock of the market for having paid €24 for someone’s kindling pile. And that we are in fact, the Algarve’s answer to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the wine-making department (they make their own, but with considerably more staff, I suspect). Over the past few weeks our devotion has been rewarded and they all have sprouted.

Photograph of a young grapevine sprouting its first leaves
Broad beans have been the great success of early spring. We have observed that these are the crop do dia of rural Portugal and wondered why. My memories of broad beans are of pale minority members of a bag of frozen mixed vegetables thrown in a pan and boiled to death by my well meaning mother and the habits of 1970s cooking. To be honest, I only grew them because judging by their proliferation round here, they seemed like a sure fire success and I’m kind of desperate like that. I didn’t really expect to like them. Yet again, I was wrong.

We know now why they are so common: they are incredibly easy to grow and they taste amazing. Given the poverty in rural Portuguese communities in the past and to some extent in the present day, it is easy to understand why a twice a year, non-irrigated food source would become almost a national dish. From our perspective, they grow quickly, strongly and look like an impressive feat of garden expertise with zero effort. You get to see how the Jack and the Beanstalk tale originated when you see how tall they get in such a short space of time.

There are essentially two bean growing seasons in the Algarve – one sowing takes place at the arrival of the rains in the Autumn with a harvest around February and the second sowing goes in around February with a harvest in May before the heat hits. They don’t require watering or any assistance whatsoever. As an added bonus, the impatient gardener doesn’t even have to wait for the beans to reach maturity before reaping some free food from the plants: you can eat the plant itself. It is recommend by some that picking off the top shoots of the plants after flowering will stop the plant using its energy for leaf growth and instead focus it on bean growth, which makes sense to me. The tips are a pale, grey-green colour, but once wilted in a pan with a tiny amount of water they turn a deep and vibrant green and make a fine soup or addition to an omelette. Probably they could make a substitute for any recipe involving spinach or spring greens.

And if you end up with too many in your veg patch, you can always dry them and get fava beans, which should keep Hannibal Lecter happy should he ever pay a visit.

Photograph of a bowl of broad bean, courgette, and broad bean tip soup
Today we had them for lunch in the most delicious and pretty quick to make soup. I could eat this on a daily basis, it is so good, and so darned healthy.

Courgette, Broad Bean and Broad Bean Tip Soup
Makes 2 large bowls or 4 small bowls
Slug of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large courgette, chopped
500g fresh broad beans in their pods (less if already de-podded). I leave the little jackets on, but if you prefer a creamier taste, take ‘em off
3 handfuls broad bean tips
1 litre stock – I used some boiled up roast chicken bones to make the stock but a stock cube of any variety will do
Slug of vermouth or white wine (optional)

Heat the oil in a pan, gently cook the onion for 5 minutes, then add all remaining vegetables and cook for 10 minutes. Add stock and wine if using and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes before blending – either until completely smooth or leaving a few lumps for texture. Adjust liquid if required.
Serve with warm bread and some creamy cheese.