Bean Fever

Shanghai is in the grip of bean fever - broad beans are in season and everywhere I look they're being packed, transported, unpacked, haggled over, bought, sold, shelled and eaten. I never much liked broad beans until I came to China, but these are amazingly good - plump, fresh and delicious.

On early morning walks I see the broad bean boys, out on their scooters and bikes, heavily laden with bulging great green sacks of beans, travelling from Bean Central -the main vegetable wholesale market in west Shanghai - along the broad bean arterial roads and bean highways to the city's wet markets. Every square inch of footpath now is taken up with broad bean activities - farmers from out of town spread out canvas sheets and sell their beans from rough bamboo baskets, old couples sit side-by-side and shell the beans together, young women shell and gossip. They grab the big fat pods and pop them in three places along their length - pop, pop, pop - to release the beans inside.

And how do you cook them? Once shelled, blanch them quickly in boiling water. Then stir fry them then with loads of garlic and black beans, and lastly a dash of sesame oil.

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