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Fava beans (Vicia faba) are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables that can be dated back to Biblical times. Despite their names, favas (or fabas) grow more like peas rather than beans.
They flourish in Zones 3 and warmer but prefer cooler temperatures. Gardeners who have had success with lima beans should have no problems growing favas.
Gardening Tips for Delicious Fava Beans That Actually Work!
Sometimes referred to as broad beans or field beans, there are a wide variety of fava beans for gardeners to choose from. The pods will range in size, with the short pods holding about four beans and the longer pods holding on average six to eight. The jumbo variety has a pod with three large beans.
Most agree that the flavor tends to be the same no matter the variety, but the pale seeds sometimes have a milder taste. There are also different cultivars that mature earlier than others. These early maturing varieties are good for regions that have summers that come on quickly.
Benefits of Fava Beans
While they are an inexpensive low-calorie protein, they have a high concentration of thiamin, vitamin K, vitamin B-6, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc, and magnesium.
Theoretically that means that Fava Beans Help Manage Parkinson’s, Prevent Birth Defects, Promote Heart Health, Provide Energy, Prevent Osteoporosis and Boost Immunity!
The fava bean plant is quite hardy but does thrive better when certain guidelines are followed. The beans will need 80 to 90 days to grow to maturity. They prefer a sunny location but do not tolerate extreme heat well. In hotter regions, the plants may need to be placed in a semi-shaded location.
Some varieties of favas can get fairly tall and may require support. Choose a garden location where supports can be provided and one that doesn't shade other plants.
Basic Fava Bean Facts:
Broad bean seeds germinate within about 10 to 14 days.
Broad beans require a 75- to 90-day growing season, depending on the variety. However, in mild climates, they can be planted in the fall and allowed to grow slowly through the winter for a spring harvest.
Fava beans grow best at temperatures between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and usually do not produce well when temperatures exceed 80 degrees.
On average there are about 15 pods per stalk on large types and 60 pods on small-seeded varieties
If you harvest them early, they are similar to a sugar snap pea with a bit more nuttiness. That makes them good for eating raw or cutting up and adding to a salad.
Otherwise, they are usually cooked
In mild regions, the seeds can be planted in the fall and overwintered, while gardeners in the cooler parts of the US can sow their favas in early spring. Those in the extreme south may have better luck starting their favas in the fall.
The soil for the fava bean plants needs to be nutrient-rich and well-draining. Plants of the pea-family, including favas, capture nitrogen from the air, which requires the soil to contain Rhizobia bacteria. This can be achieved by adding nitrogen-rich matter to the soil like manure. Gardeners can also purchase inoculants that are specifically designed for vetch crops.
The plants are cold-hardy, so the seeds can be planted directly in the garden. Plant the seeds about one to two inches deep and approximately four inches apart. In warm zones, plant the seeds somewhat deeper than normal. Once the plants are about three inches in height, they can be thinned to about six inches apart.
Once they are established well, mulch around the plants to help retain moisture and control weed growth. Supply about a half-inch of water per week until they begin to flower. After flowering, increase the water supply to about one inch weekly. The plants can be fed monthly, but for nutrient-rich soils, feeding times can be decreased.
Fava beans are not immune to garden diseases and pests. Plants that mature in hot weather are susceptible to insect problems, while those grown in cool, moist regions are seldom troubled.
When the mercury rises to above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the plants may drop their flowers, which increases the chance of pests like aphids and bean beetles. Floating row covers can help minimize destruction from some common garden pests.
Fava beans can be picked during three different stages. When the beans are young and tender, they can be harvested and use the entire pod - much like snow peas. Allowing the pods to mature even more will provide a seed that can be used like English peas. When the pods are allowed to dry, the beans need to be shelled and are used like black-eyed peas. The longer the pods are allowed to mature, the stronger the flavor of the bean.
Some varieties of large-sized favas have skin that will need to be removed prior to eating. This is done simply by submerging the cooked beans in cold water, which allows the skin to slide off.
Favas are self-pollinators but will cross with other cultivars. For harvesting seeds for later planting use, only plant one cultivar to avoid cross-pollination. Seeds should be stored in an air-tight container, stored in a dark, cool location, and used within five years.
An important note about fava beans should be mentioned. Mature beans are known to cause a severe allergic reaction known as favism in some individuals. Men of southern European descent are at the highest risk for the reaction.
To reduce the risk of a reaction, soak the seeds in hot water prior to use. It is recommended that people who have never eaten favas should only eat a small amount first. This will help minimize the severity of the reaction should you have an unknown allergy to the bean.