The meaning of legume is hand-picked, derived from the Latin word leger, and it refers to podded beans and peas.
It is described as the fruit of a pea or bean plant that are contained within a case that when ripe, slits with the fruits contained on one side.
Legumes are an extremely important vegetable group, not just in our diet but in our crop rotation too.
As a food item they are a great source of protein, particularly for vegetarians, but as an alternative to meat they are low in fat and cholesterol. In fact, legumes have been for a long time as a meat alternative, so much so that they are often referred to as ‘poor mans meat’.
In the garden the legumes has the unusual ability of adding nutrients to the soil, and as such they are often referred to as a green manure.
Beans and peas are usually sown in the early spring, either in a propagator or under glass. Peas and broad beans are the first to be sown with French beans, mangetout and runner beans sown in late spring, as they are more sensitive and need to be protected from frost.
We grow on young seedlings in the greenhouse, hardening them off before planting in their final position.
Seeds can also be sown direct, although this is often a counter productive method as mice will often find seeds.
Broad beans are one of the few plants that you can sow in Autumn, however the loses are normally quite large, so we don’t really see any advantage and keep to a spring sowing.
Generally there is little to do once the plants have established, as these plants have the unusual ability of adding nutrients to the soil.
But they do need plenty of water, so we use the bean trench method to grow legumes as it helps with water retention.
You will also need to water if the season is particularly dry.
This group follows the roots in our crop rotation plan, and because we add seaweed to the soil when we grow root vegetables, the seaweed acts like a tonic and increases the levels of nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil, these are then taken up by the roots of the legumes, helping the nitrogen fixing ability of this plant group.
Bean and legume pests and diseases are not a major issue and you are unlikely to see many problems with your crop that are too difficult to deal with.
This group of our vegetable garden would commonly have broad beans, runner beans, mangetout, French beans and peas, but this important section of vegetable plants contains far more than these commonly grown varieties, here is a comprehensive list of the legume plants that you can grow.