Fava beans (Vicia faba), also known as broad beans, are widely cultivated annual legumes native to the Mediterranean region and one of the world’s most ancient cultivated crops.
A rich source of protein, fiber, and numerous essential nutrients, they are eaten by millions of people worldwide. These large beans have a sweet, earthy, and nutty flavor. Their tender to starchy texture turns soft and buttery when cooked.
Flava beans are versatile and can be tossed into green salads, boiled, fried, roasted, stewed, steamed, or mashed.
What are Fava Beans?
- Fava beans are a species of vetch in the plant family Fabaceae, also known as the legume, pea, or bean family, which includes lentils, chickpeas, peas, and peanuts.
- Fava beans are annual plants producing square, upright stems clothed with rounded, blue-green leaves. Unlike many other bean species, Fava beans are not twining climbers.
- Clusters of strongly fragrant, tubular, black and white, or crimson flowers are produced along the stems. The pretty flowers attract native bees, bumblebees, and other pollinators.
- They are followed by thick, bright green, bumpy pods, 6-10 in. (15-25 cm), turning black when fully mature.
- When opened, the fibrous pods reveal a cottony interior and 2 to 8 large, plump, and flat green beans.
- Fava beans are available for a short season in the spring, while dried Fava beans are available year-round.
- This cool-season crop is frost-hardy and can be grown in most climates. However, temperatures between 65-75°F (18-24°C) are ideal.
- Fava beans are widely cultivated as a crop for human consumption and as a cover crop.
- Fava beans fix nitrogen and add nutrients that improve the soil, benefitting the plants that are growing beside them. Beans are great for heavy nitrogen users.
- Popular Fava bean cultivars include Sweet Lorraine, Approvecho, Broad Windsor, Sweet Lorane, Agua-dulce, Masterpiece, Meteor, The Sutton.
- Both fruits and flowers, and even pollen, can be toxic to certain people who experience favism.
Health Benefits of Fava Beans
- While Fava beans make a flavorful addition to various dishes, they may also offer impressive health benefits.
- Fava beans are packed with high-quality proteins, fiber, and numerous essential nutrients, making them a superfood.
- Proteins: one cup of cooked Fava beans contains about 30% of your daily protein needs. Proteins benefit a healthy immune system and help maintain healthy bones, hairs, organs, and muscles.
- Fiber: may help lower harmful cholesterol levels and improve your heart health. Fiber also helps regulate the digestive tract and keep your digestive system healthy.
- Folate: one cup of Fava beans covers almost 50% of your daily needs. Folate helps lower the risk of birth defects and is also important for reducing depression.
- Manganese: one cup of Fava beans covers 36% of your daily needs. Manganese helps to maintain bone strength and may help prevent osteoporosis.
- Copper: one cup of Fava beans contains 22% of your daily needs. Copper supports immune health, keeps nerve cells healthy, and forms collagen, which helps make up your bones and tissues.
- Iron: one cup of Fava beans contains 14% of your daily recommended intake. Iron can help prevent anemia.
- Nutrition Facts (per 100 grams): 171 calories, 17.97 grams carbs, 6.95 grams protein, 8.32 grams fat, 4.9 grams fiber.
Cooking with Fava Beans
- Fava beans are a staple in cooking across many cultures, from Portuguese to Chinese to South American dishes.
- Fava beans have a fresh and sweet flavor and taste sensational. They are perfect for both raw and cooked dishes.
- Young beans are primarily consumed fresh as they have a more tender texture.
- Mature beans become starchier and are only edible once cooked. They also require some preparation before they can be eaten. The beans should be removed from the pods, blanched, and put in cold water to remove the thin, protective coating.
- Fava beans can be boiled, roasted, stewed, steamed, fried, or mashed.
- They can be tossed into green salads, dressed as a side dish, added to soups, or pureed into sauces such as pesto, dips, or savory spreads.
- Fava beans are usually dried for extended use.
- Fava beans are an excellent substitute for Lima beans.
- Dried Fava beans should be soaked in the refrigerator overnight. Give a thorough rinse if you are using canned Fava beans.
Growing Fava Beans
- Fava beans grow up to 2-6 ft. tall (60-180 cm) and 10-12 in. wide (25-30 cm), depending on the variety.
- Fava beans perform best in fertile, acidic to neutral (pH ranging from 6.0 to 6.5), moist, well-drained soils in full sun or part shade (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day) in a sheltered location.
- If your soil lacks nutrients, add well-rotted organic matter or compost before planting.
- Fava beans are tolerant of clay and saline soils and, once established, drought.
- Keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. Bean plants do require consistent and even moisture once they have formed flowers.
- Depending on the variety, Fava beans take 80-100 days to harvest after planting.
- Fava beans are a cool-season crop that grows best between 65-75°F (18-24°C).
- They tolerate temperatures as low as 10°F (-12°C), but they perform poorly when temperatures rise above 75°F (24°C).
- Sow seeds outdoors in the spring or fall when soil temperatures are between 42-70°F (5-21C).
- Spring-sown seeds will mature in about 80-100 days, while seeds sown in the fall will mature in 240 days (over winter).
- Sow 1-2 inches deep (2-5 cm) and 6-8 inches apart (15-20 cm) in rows 8-10 inches apart (20-30 cm).
- Cover the seeds with 2 inches (5 cm) of soil and water thoroughly.
- Provide support for taller varieties, or they might flop under the weight of the bean pods.
- Beans are soil builders. They rarely need any fertilizer during the growing season.
- Mulch to retain moisture, keep the soil cool, and control weeds.
- Pinch off the tops of your Fava plant when it reaches full bloom, and the first pods emerge. This will direct the plant’s energy into producing abundant beans and may prevent black bean aphid colonies.
- Rotate crops: Prevent problems by not planting beans in the same location more often than every 3 years.
- Compost plants after harvest. Cut them at the root. The nutrient-rich roots can be tilled back into the soil.
- Fava beans are susceptible to a few pests. Keep an eye out for aphids, black bean aphids, cutworms, grasshoppers, Japanese beetles, Mexican bean beetle, slugs, snails, spider mites, thrips, mice, pea and bean weevils, and wireworms.
- Fava beans are susceptible to diseases, including bean mosaic virus, powdery mildew, bean root rot, bean rust, chocolate spot, and white mold.
Harvesting and Storing Fava Beans
- Fava beans can be harvested from late spring to mid-summer, depending on variety and sowing time.
- Pods can be picked when they are young and immature, about 3 in. long (7 cm), and cooked whole to add a grassy flavor to spring dishes.
- When picking pods to shell, wait until the beans have fully developed and are visible through the pod. Do not leave them too long. Small beans are sweeter and more tender than large ones.
- Regular picking encourages other pods to form.
- Fresh, unshelled Fava beans can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 10 days.
- Once shelled, the beans should be immediately eaten for best flavor and quality. They can be stored up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
- Fava beans can also be frozen for about one month.
Best Companion Plants for Fava Beans
A good example of companion planting is The Three Sisters Garden. Practiced by Native Americans thousands of years ago, this garden includes corn, beans, and squash. The tall corn provides shade for the lower squash but also stops the squash vine borer beetle. Corn also provides support for the bean plants to climb up. The beans enrich the soil with nutrients for both corn and squash. And the large leaves of the squash vines create a protective mulch that helps retain moisture while suppressing weeds. Another added benefit is the prickly vines of the squash deter the raccoons from stripping the corncobs.
Worst Companion Plants for Fava Beans
- Do not plant Broad beans near garlic, onions, fennel, or beet.
- Alliums such as garlic, onions, and shallots will stunt the growth of the beans.
- Most plants dislike fennel, and it has an inhibiting effect on them.
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.