Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are one of the oldest cultivated plants, with archaeological Fava bean remains dating back to the Neolithic Era (6800-6500 BCE) in Israel. Enjoyed by many ancient civilizations including the Romans and Greeks, Fava beans have been grown as a food crop for humans and livestock alike for many centuries. Today, Fava beans are cultivated and incorporated into cuisines in over fifty countries.
Favas are cool weather crops and are planted in the Fall in areas with mild winters, and in the Spring elsewhere. Here in Sonoma county, we recommend planting Favas in Fall by December 1st for an early Spring harvest. Plant your Favas by creating a trench about 2 inches deep for the length of your bed. Favas are quite tall (up to six feet tall depending on variety) so pick a space where they won’t shade out other sun loving plants. Place your Fava bean seeds about 2 inches apart. Gently cover with soil and water until soil is moist. Continue to keep your seeded area moist until germination (7-10 days in ideal conditions, longer in cold soil) and until your Fava sprouts are a few inches tall.
Your Favas will need support and will require trellising as they grow. We recommend using a twine trellis like we use for tomatoes and peas.
Fava beans grow best in cool weather where temperatures are below 70F and they will not produce pods in warmer weather.
Your Friendly Favas: The Plant That Gives Back (to your soil)
Side note about nitrogen: All plants use nitrogen to grow, as it plays important roles within plants not only in growth, but development as well. Nitrogen is abundant in our atmosphere and the air we breathe, but not in the form that is usable by plants. Nitrogen fixation is the process in which microorganisms convert atmospheric nitrogen into forms that are usable by plants. You’ll see how fava beans use these bacteria to both of their advantage.
Fava beans don’t need much in the way of fertilizers because they produce the nitrogen they need. Fava bean plants have a mutual exchange with soil dwelling bacteria that help “fix” nitrogen into the plant-usable form. These nitrogen fixing bacteria live in nodules of the roots of the fava bean plant creating nitrogen for the plant as it grows and, in return, the plant provides the bacteria with nutrients, so that they, too, can grow and thrive. At the end of the growing season, we recommend cutting the plant off at the soil level leaving the roots to decompose which will add nutrients back into the soil. Give your soil an extra boost by chopping up some stem and leaf matter and turning it into your soil.
Immature Fava bean pods (before the beans fully form) can be harvested and eaten whole when they are just a few inches long and young and tender. Once the pods reach 6-8 inches long, it is time to harvest them for the fresh fava beans inside. Within a fava pod, each bean is encased in a tough skin that gets more and more bitter as the bean matures, so you may want to skin each bean before you cook them. Fava beans are a nutrient-rich bean, which means they are loaded with tons of nutrients like vitamins and amino acids with no saturated fat or cholesterol. The nutrients include: vitamin K, vitamin B-6, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc, magnesium, and amino acids tyrosine and L-DOPA. The culinary uses for Favas are endless: fresh in salads, mashed on toast (or just mashed!), pods grilled whole, and even alone as a tasty, nutritious snack. Grow Favas this Fall for healthier soil and a healthier you!