Know and Grow Fava Beans- Vicia faba
I’m so excited to harvest my fava beans/ broad beans. This was my first time growing these beans. Honestly, I didn’t even know about these beans until I grew them for the first time. So it was fun. I tried dried beans and didn’t find them as flavorful as kidney beans or other kinds of beans that we eat. But, the green fava beans or broad beans changed my mind. These are cute-looking beans and taste very good.
Fava bean is one of the first cultivated crops in the world. The exact origin is not known but it first originated or cultivated in eastern countries and part of the middle east. It is actually surprising since fava beans love moisture and I didn’t think middle eastern countries had moist soils back then.
- Broad Beans
Like many other nutritious foods, broad beans are also energy-rich natural multivitamins. They are carbohydrate-rich beans and very creamy in taste. Carbohydrate content is approximately 60% and protein content is around 25%. Fava beans are a good source of vitamin B and folate, They also contain vitamin K and C. Other than vitamins broad beans are packed with a number of minerals and microelements. So healthy. Isn’t it?
Anti-Nutritional Factors and G6PD Deficiency
But again like any other beans, they also contain some anti-nutritional factors like Phyto-agglutinins and levodopa in small amounts. You can boil these beans to eliminate the harmful effects of these phytochemicals. Other than that there is a genetic condition called G6PD deficiency. It is an enzyme that is important for healthy red blood cells and deficiency of this enzyme can cause a type of anemia called hemolytic anemia. It happens because the blood cells are destroyed more quickly. The symptoms depend on the severity of the disease. They can range from pale skin, frequent infections, shortness of breath, fast heartbeat, jaundice. This condition is also called Favism. It is also caused by some other medications and consuming fava beans. So, people with a deficiency of G6PD should avoid fava beans.
Growing Fava Beans or Broad Beans
I purchased this plant from a local nursery. So far it has been acting like a good child. Growing very fast.
How long the seeds stay viable?
The seeds stay viable for three years if you store them properly. Don’t freeze them but keep them in a cool air-tight container in a dark place.
Climate & Soil Requirements
I think fava beans are one of the easiest plants to grow. They are cool-season crops. I started them last fall and the plants were ready by winter to produce the yummy beans. Alternatively, you can also start the plants in early spring outdoors or late winter indoors and then plant them out when the freeze is over. In winter, When all the other plants were dying down, fava beans were growing fast and trying to keep the garden beautiful. These plants grow well in moist silt-like soil and they are not very demanding. The optimal pH is acidic between 6–6.5. Too much acidity is not recommended.
You can either direct sow the seeds or soak them first for a couple of hours. The seeds that I sowed sprouted quickly within a week. You can inoculate the seeds with Rhizobium bacteria so that they fix the nitrogen better. The seeds are planted 1 inch deep with a spacing of 6–8 inches between the plants and spacing between two rows is 24–30 inches. Avoid direct sowing the seeds if the winter is not over yet. It is better to have an optimal temperature when you start any plant. You can first start the seeds indoors for a couple of weeks and then plant the seedlings out.
Leaves & Stems
The plants look beautiful with those large oval leaves. Multiple stems come out from a single plant and grow upright. They don’t appear very woody or strong but manages to stay strong and upright on their own. You can see some of the stems are growing horizontally here but it is because this plant had some frost damage during winter.
As I mentioned earlier, I had sown some seeds in the ground and some in a planter. The potted plant first started blooming. The flowers look beautiful white in color with a black eye at the center.
I was excited to pick the beans soon and just then we had a deadly winter storm that lasted for a week. Broad beans tolerate frost to some extent but freeze lasted for days. The potted plant was well protected in the garage and that one didn’t suffer much damage. I tried to protect the plants in the ground by covering them with a cardboard box.
The plant didn’t die completely but just when I had started enjoying the beautiful blooms, they had to start over. New shoots rose up from the ground as the temperature started coming back to normal. Pods soon started forming. Pods soon filled up with the healthy beans. We got our first harvest just in a few weeks after the frost. The pods are about 6–8 inches long. These are still small but I know they can grow much bigger. The size of the seeds also depends on the variety. I’m not sure which variety I have.
Harvesting these beans is so much fun. They grow pretty big. You can wait for the pods to dry if you like the dried beans. But, I harvested them young. It is very easy to take them out of the pods. If you prefer fully formed, mature beans then you can remove the cover before eating. It is always a good idea to cook the beans for better digestion. It also disables some anti-nutritional factors that can give you an upset stomach.
As these beans grow in the cold season, if you start them in the fall, you don’t have to worry much about the pests. But in springtime, they can get attacked by some usual pests like aphids, slugs, and some other bacterial and fungal diseases. Some of the branches of my beans were appearing burnt and turning black. It looked like a fungal infection due to excess moisture. It didn’t affect many branches. I got rid of the dead branches and the plant was fine after that. I usually do not apply pesticides. Unlike farmers who need to grow a large number of the same plants, gardeners have the flexibility to grow only a small number of plants. Having different types of plants also helps as it is not easier for the pests to find and attack the plants from a variety of plants. I sometimes find small-sized pests beneficial as they attract their predators/ bigger beneficial insects in the garden. So don’t rush to kill the first pest that you spot in the garden. Let nature take care of it first. It helps a lot in the long term if you want to practise organic gardening.