Growing the Marvelous, Fabulous Fava Bean

fava bean flowersThe flowers of fava beans, aka broad beans, are so beautiful you may want to grow them for that purpose alone. The fact that you get beans would be secondary were it not for how wonderful they taste.

Beans in general are self-pollinating, which only means they have both male and female parts on the same flower. Some beans are fine left alone, but in this case, insects can help with the pollination. The fava bean plant can get pretty tall, so it’s best to plant them close together for support. You may even want to stake them, as they tend to like to bend over when they are about 2 feet tall.

They can easily be overtaken by weeds. One lesson learned the hard way. We also found that the rabbits really like them. Really, really like them. Yep, two lessons learned the hard way. Our first crop in 2012 was pretty much overwhelmed by weeds and rabbits, something we blame wholeheartedly on the mild winter that year. Both pests were much more in abundance than we normally see here in the Northeast, and to be honest we were not prepared. Fava beans also make a good cover crop, if you are looking to keep weeds at bay and improve your soil. What the weeds and the rabbits didn’t destroy, we let continue to grow then tilled that bed this spring.

We did get enough of a chance to eat a few beans to know that growing them is well worth it. As with so many other veggies, homegrown flavor far surpasses anything you will find in a store. Normally we would not describe a bean as sweet, but the fava bean certainly leans in that direction. So when the weather was right another batch was planted. This time we surrounded the bed with chicken wire as a precaution, and enough mulch to keep any weeds at bay. So far it has proven successful. As of mid-June we are starting to see bean development and are anxiously awaiting the first harvest.

Fava? That doesn’t begin to describe this plant. Perhaps they should rename them Favalicious.

Botanical name: Vicia faba
Yield: Many beans per plant, if the rabbits don’t get them.
Planting time: Same as peas, they can take temps down as low as 10˚F.

Spacing: 4-6″

Days to Maturity: 75

Harvest: I hear you can eat them whole if you pick them small, but usually they are harvested when the pods become plump. They can also be left to dry on the plant.

Storage: Blanch and freeze whole bean, peel before eating.

Pests: They attract aphids.
Seeds: Considered to be open pollinated and heirloom; you can save the seeds.

Gardening Jones is a master gardener in Pennsylvania. Learn more at gardeningjones.com/blog.
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