Learn how to grow beans and peas the easy, fun way

Kierra Box

18 March 2016

Is your pulse racing? Join the Great Pulse Race and you could win a whole range of pulse-based goodies including copies of Jenny Chandler’s amazing cookbook, Pulse*.

Earlier this year we went a bit bean-crazy. Inspired by the United Nations’ International Year of Pulses, we set ourselves the challenge of producing our own tasty, healthy and sustainable food... And now it’s your turn. It's never too late to get involved - just tweet us a pic of your tasty homegrown beans to enter.

While we all love climate-friendly food, most of us are eaters, not gardeners. So there have been ups (who knew how easy it was to sprout a broad bean seed in a jar?) and downs (apparently it is not OK to grow a bean in a dark corner between two radiators). But as spring is sprung upon us, we’re proud to say that there is not a single bean left behind – we’ve all successfully grown a range of surprisingly healthy looking broad bean plants.

I've never created anything before, I’ve only destroyed.

Newbie gardener, in wonderment

We've still got a while to go before we get edible beans, but we think we’ve proved that it really is possible for anyone to grow cheap and tasty food at home. If we can do it, so can you.

Whether you're planning a school garden, brightening up your office or looking for something more exciting than cress to grow with your kids, get your pulse racing.

Here’s how:

Step 1: The best beans to grow in the UK

All seeds were not created equal. Firstly, you’ll want to check that you’re actually growing a pulse. Marrows will not be accepted. Pulses include dried beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils, but we’ve been reliably informed that if you want to grow your pulse and eat it too, you’ll want to select something suitable for our climate, like a Broad bean or a Runner bean.

Pulses grow best with a bit of love. Or at least, it makes growing them pretty fun. So give your seed a name and jazz up your pot. Victoria Lentilton, anyone?

You can here to let us know you're on board.

decorated pulses in pots
 

Step 2: Growing beans at home

If you haven't started yet, don't worry. Now the weather is warmer, you can plant your seed directly in soil. Your seeds will need regular watering, but too much will just turn them mouldy - so watch out for enthusiastic little hands grabbing that watering can! Follow us on twitter @Lets_Eat_Better for more hints and tips.

“I think my bean is broken. I demand a non-deficient bean”

Impatient office gardener

Most broad and runner beans can be started off inside, but after six to eight weeks you’ll need to move them to an outside windowsill or garden otherwise they might not produce any beans. It's a great chance to get a bit of fresh air yourself, too.

“Is this it? Is it all they do – just ‘be green’?”

Confused first-time bean grower

Our beans are now outside enjoying the sunshine. We're looking forward to learning how they produce tasty broad beans for us to eat - it's much more exciting than buying them from the shops.

Broad bean in a garden
 

Step 3: How is your bean growing?

It's fun to watch how beans grow. Keep a record if you can -  take a photo or video of it from the same angle each day. There are free tools available online to help you animate your pulsey pics too. Share your pulse’s progress with us online, using the hashtag #PulseRace. Check out more of our photos and videos here.

When your plant hits the finish line and produces you pods full of delicious pulses, let us know on Twitter using #PulseRace - or drop us an email. We'd love to know if they taste fresher than your usual supermarket buys, or how they go down with the kids. If you’re already growing a Broad Bean you could get a pod in the next few weeks, while Runner Bean racers may need to wait until as late as September or October for a tasty pulse.

Mum, can we grow some pizza next?

Small but excited gardener

A copy of Jenny Chandler’s inspiring cookbook ‘Pulse’ will go to our 'winners'* - the first plant to produce an edible bean or pea - with additional pulse related prizes for runners-up. We’ll also offer everyone who has tweeted us some amazing pulse-based recipes to help you and your family make the most of your tasty pulses.

If this gets you inspired, why not sign up to Let's Eat Better for fun ideas and great recipes all year round?

I want to Eat Better!

*This competition is not open to Friends of the Earth staff. Prizes may vary for non-UK competitors. Further terms and conditions may apply - please email for details

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Mr Bean on a broad bean plant