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Fava Beans - more than just beans

 
Kate Downham
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I'm interested in growing a lot more of these as an overwintered 'hungry gap' fresh food crop. I am in USDA zone 9 and the large-seeded ones grow well here through the winter without any irrigation.

I had no idea there were issues with eating them raw. I have always eaten the fresh shelled beans raw, and yesterday I tried a whole small pod, to see if that would be an easy source of food if I grew a lot of them next year.

Does anyone know if the very young fresh pods can be a problem for all people (eg phytates or other anti-nutrients), or is it only those who are allergic?

We like fresh raw green beans a lot and thought the tiny pods of these could be an alternative.
 
Michael Moreken
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I grew Fava the first time.  Planted them out as seeds 9/15, to begin I had about 13 plants pop up, with pretty high germination, then some brown fungus attacked most of them and killed them.  So have roughly 6 now, a few inches high, sailing through 26°F first freeze.
 
klara bib
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I usually plant them in February, Agua Dulce. Every year I have problem with black aphids in March or April. I control them with garlic "soup" at regular intervals.
I never dry Fava Beans, but keep them in freezer
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Experiment. I read somewhere (in this thread) it was possible to plant the beans in autumn. So I did. I planted broad beans (the regional type, 'tuinbonen' in Dutch) end October.
This morning I noticed some of them growing between the leaf mulch, in the small 'Hugelkultur 2'!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Tomorrow is fava bean planting day for me. The snow melted yesterday. Therefore, it's time to get favas in the ground. Favas may bloom like crazy in hot weather, but they don't set fruits. They grow great in cool weather, and don't mind the spring frosts, so the quicker they get started, the more likely they are to flower and set seeds during cool weather.

 
Leigh Tate
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I was very happy to find this thread because this is my first year growing favas. Every summer, we typically experience several weeks or months of hot (upper 90s) dry spells, which means the garden often goes into survival mode. I've been trying to expand winter gardening to increase food production. (Although our winters can be iffy as well, either mild or miserable).



So far so good, even with a couple of nights down into the upper 20s.

I'm gleaning of good information here; much appreciated.
 
William Schlegel
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Planted some more fava beans from my fava bean grex today. It's open burning season here- no permit needed. My well isn't flooded this spring, so my hose works. So I burned the accumulated brush piles. Then in the ashes, and charcoal, and mud from the hose I started poking in fava seeds. My grex is descended from Ianto's Return, Frog Island Nation, Windsor, Early Windsor, and Lofthouse. Though this year I am adding in an Andean mix, brown speckled, and a fingerprint fava.

I actually started planting them on February 20th. Stuck them into all the old sawdust and bark pile bases then. Then I planted the new ones, plus some that volunteered last year in the fenced garden and around the base of a double dug bed.

Lots of diversity in the grex. Little bitty ones to great big ones, most seem to be tan, purple, or intermediate. The smallest sizes, which I am fond of, came from the Lofthouse landrace favas.
20200306_145816.jpg
Burning brush pile
Burning brush pile
20200306_172517.jpg
Charcoal and ash and mud
Charcoal and ash and mud
 
Burl Smith
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What's your favarite recipe?
 
William Schlegel
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Burl Smith wrote:What's your favarite recipe?



None yet. Haven't tried eating them yet. I have difficulty with trying new foods. So it's a nitrogen crop at present for me.
 
Burl Smith
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Ahh so; I plan to use cowpeas for that purpose but do recall reading somewhere (probably here) that favas are cold tolerant.
 
r ranson
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Favas are cold tolerant.  They love a cool moist start to the year.  Some places can overwinter favas and they come ready to harvest in early summer.  Basically like Barley.

Cowpeas require rainfall in the summer months and warmth.
 
William Schlegel
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Fava cold tolerance seems to be plenty for planting as soon as the snow melts in the rockies. They don't survive the winter for me though. In fact though planting as soon as the snow melts is a trick I picked up from Joseph Lofthouse which has enabled my fava success. Prior to learning to plant early they never did much for me.
 
Leigh Tate
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This is my first year to grow favas, so they're an experiment for me. It's been a mild winter (for us), so they've had to put up with several nighttime lows in the 20s and snow. Some of the plants haven't made it, but some have!



It usually turns hot for us in April (80s) so if fall plantings don't work out, I'd have to try late winter or very early spriing.
 
William Schlegel
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Got more favas planted today. Pretty much out of fava seed. The four grocery bags I had it in are empty now.
 
William Schlegel
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Well, one sprouted.
20200316_165907.jpg
First fava sprout
First fava sprout
 
Leigh Tate
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UPDATE: About a third of what I planted last fall survived, but they're blooming!



 
Mathew Trotter
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I read an article from an Italian cook who chided the French and English for undertaking the fiddly job of removing the skins from favas. I pan roast mine as shelly beans, skins and all, and they're delicious that way. However, the variety I've been growing is descended from Italian stock, so it could just be a matter of Italians having selected for more palatable skins. This is the first year that I'll have enough to try as dry beans, so we'll see if that changes things.

Also wanted to note that I tried a small serving of the young pods this year after seeing several sources list them as edible. I vomited within an hour of eating them and felt queasy the rest of the day. That could be down to cooking method or duration, or it could have been completely coincidental, but since I found them to be entirely inferior to the shelly beans in both taste and texture, I won't be repeating that experiment to see if I get sick again.
 
Andrea Locke
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klara bib wrote:I usually plant them in February, Agua Dulce. Every year I have problem with black aphids in March or April.



Interesting - I used to grow Windsor when we lived on the east coast of Canada, and don't recall ever having aphids. Since we've been on the west coast, I've been growing Aquadulce and they are aphid magnets. I had assumed it was an environmental difference, but now I'm wondering if it is the variety. Maybe next year I'll grow both as an experiment.

I learned about the potential edibility of the green growing tips/leaves about the same time as I started growing Aquadulce, and have wanted to try them, but the aphids are sufficiently off-putting that I've never sampled them. Perhaps just as well given the digestive upsets experienced by some people on this thread. They make a pretty good catch crop for aphids, and it doesn't seem to affect the bean production.

Also, referring back to a much earlier (several years ago?) discussion about the traits of Windsor beans - my Windsors dried to a pale green, and I think the flowers were white with dark markings. I forget where I got the seeds, but it would have been a seed company from the Maritimes. Maybe either Vesey's or Halifax Seeds. I have to wonder, with heritage seed varieties in particular, how much genetic drift there is between regional seed companies where the varieties have adapted to specific environmental conditions. It seems inevitable to me that this would occur.



 
Joseph Lofthouse
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The cross pollination rate of fava beans is around 30%. This makes them wonderfully susceptible to local adaptation (genetic drift).

I treat the pods and leaves of fava beans as if they were poisonous. They don't taste palatable to me. That's a good sign that they aren't suitable as food.
 
Jan White
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I grew favas for the first time this year. I actually planted some last fall, even though my winters are probably too cold. I just wanted to see. We had a very mild winter and I thought they might actually make it, but they seemed to just rot in the wet ground after germinating. Lots of shoots in the soil, but none of them ever came up.

I replanted in February and they took FOREVER to come up and a lot of them didn't at all. Same thing as before, lots of shoots in the soil, but they just sat there like that and never came up. The ones that did come up finally just started blooming a couple weeks ago - at a whopping four to six inches tall 🤣 I think it'll be too hot now to get a crop.

Next time I'll soak the seeds before planting and see if that speeds things up, but we may just not have enough of a spring for them. Our weather tends to go from snow to scorching too quickly for traditional cool weather spring crops. I was hoping favas could get an earlier start than some other things. I guess we'll see next year.
 
Andrea Locke
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:The cross pollination rate of fava beans is around 30%. This makes them wonderfully susceptible to local adaptation (genetic drift).



That is very interesting and if applicable to beans in general would certainly explain why there are many different varieties in the world.

How does that 30% figure for beans compare to other veggies? Is it unusually high, low, average?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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My estimate of 30% cross pollination rate applies only to fava beans, not to other types of beans.

At my place, common beans (P vulgaris) cross pollinate at a rate of about 1 in 200. In damp ecosystems with lots of pollinators, it might be as much as 5%.

Each species has its own breeding system with its own cross pollination rate. Spinach, sunroots, and cabbage are 100% out-crossing. Domestic tomatoes cross at about 3%. The wild tomatoes I'm working with are 100% cross pollinating.

My general impression, is that highly inbreeding crops tend towards having more named varieties. Cause the inbreeding leads to boring sameness that can be named.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I plant favs beans the day after the winter snow cover melts. For me, that's the second week of March. Pre-soaking can help with germination. It turns hot the first week of June. By then, they are already flowering (at 4"  tall) and will make seeds.
 
Mare Silba
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I love growing fava beans. Since I'm in the Mediterranean area with mild winters & hot summers I plant them in November (usually) and harvest in the spring. This year harvest was really late so beans harvested for seed are just now dry enough for storage. I had 3 different varieties growing - one bought on a farmers market, one with purple beans (Extra precoce a grano violetto) and horsebean.
My default growing mode is to mix everything and different varieties end up either interplanted (is this a legitimate word?) or grown next to each other. In this case thos three types of fava beans were grown just few meters apart. And since there was a huge number of bumblebees and other pollinators, I expect there should be a fair number of crosses. We'll see what happened there in the next few years.

'Local variety' - bought on farmers market where it's usually sold for food. There is a great chance that it is some local/regional variety because fava beans are grown traditionally in the coastal regions for centuries, or at least something that is grown from own seeds maybe a decade, but I can't be sure, I didn't ask. But it did have at least 1 year of growing in the area.
The seed was full of 'bean bug' holes (what's the name of it in English anyway?) but had very good germination rate. Since I got a fair number of beans for low price, this was the variety I planted in highest number - most of it was harvested for food while beans were still young and green (as shelling bean) and some of it was left for seeds. It had vigorous growth with high variety in flower collors - from completely white to flowers with pink-ish, purple-ish or gray tinge to pink and purple ones, also with variety in the shape and undercolor of leaves. It was true feast for the eyes while they were in bloom. Most pods had four beans in them, but in some of them just 2 or 3 beans ended up fully developed.
Plants that I wanted to take seeds from were marked while still in the flowering phase - I wanted to be sure to save as much of the variability in flower color as possible, I did aditional marking when pods started to develop to be sure that I capture those early maturing plants. Dry beans are mostly light greenish with a bit of really light brown tinge on some of them. I'm guessing they will get more and more brown with time, as the original seed was brown. Despite harvesting most of it for food, I still ended up with a nice quantity of seeds, maybe double of the number I planted.

Other two varieties were bought from a small German company and probably more suited for continental climate and growing during spring/summer season with lower temperatures. There was not a lot of seeds in each packet so for those two my main goal this year is to gather as much seed as I can.

Purple coloured beans - I had maybe 20 seeds in total so I just planted 10 of them this year. Half of them didtn't sprout or got eaten very young so I ended with just 5 plants. Despite it's name it wasn't early, at least compared with the above 'local' beans and what I generaly know of timings of fava beans in my area.  But, flowering time of this one did overlap to some extent with the 'local' fava so there should be some number of crossings.
This is fava bean with white flowers, green beans in younger stages, purple color of the beans starts to show at the end of the maturation stage. I picked maybe two pods while growing to check the development and color of the beans, the rest of it was left to mature completely for seeds. I got some 40 seeds at the end - good enough for me.

Horsebean - very vigorous growth, white colored flowers. This one had the latest start of flowering with very little overlap in timing with the other two varieties, so I'm guessing crossing wasn't that high. Pods were very uniformely developed. I had some more plants of this one so I did harvest some of it for food - in the green bean stage. It tastes really nice and I stored some of it in the freezer for later use. Maturing of the seeds wasn't that uniformed - there was much higer percentage of seeds that dried out and shriveled while reaching mature state, also much higher bug pressure. I'm thinking that the reason for that is that they are later variety than broad beans, so maturing time overlaped with first drought period, also at that time there is a lot more bugs that love pods and beans. I'm hoping to develop somewhat earlier horsebean in next years that woud be more suited for my area. In the end I did got a nice number of seeds for the next season.

So here's a photo of my seed stash from this growing season. They are going into the freezer for at least several days and I'm thinking of keeping them there longterm.

Vicia.faba_2021.png
shelled-beans
 
Mare Silba
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Some of you mentioned that you have problems with black aphids. Two things helps with them:

1. Grow some supvorting plant that aphids also love - either next to favas or even better interplanted between fava plants. Chammomile is my favorite for this. They flower at the right time to help favas, aphids love them and I have lots of chammomile flowers for either tea or for my own salves and similar.

2. Pinch the top of the plant when pods are starting to set. Aphids love that part of fava beans the most so you just remove the tastiest part to them. I usually pinch the top when there are some four or five 'rows' of flowers, and the lowes ones are already started to develop it's pods.
It has added benefit - at that point your pinched plant will put all of it's energy to developing beans, and not use it for further growth of the plant and more flowers.
You can even eat tose young tops - mixed with other leafy greens like spinach or chard.


And here are some close-up photos of above mentioned varieties that I had this year:

'local/regional' one:



purple bean - 'Extra precoce a grano violetto':



horsebean:

 
C Lundquist
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I've been growing favas as a winter cover crop for the last few years. I planted several varieties initially and have been breeding my own variety for my own garden and taste. This year, we had a very cool spring and most have barely set pods, so I'm selecting for early setting this year!

The greens are great, if you pick the tips before the plant flowers. Then they are tender and you can cook them up whole, like pea shoots. When the plants get older, the greens get tougher and my favorite way to eat them is ground up in a pesto. They are very very much like pea shoots and can be eaten identically.

A common reason dry beans cause digestive issues is the galactooligosaccharides in them. This is a carbohydrate that our bodies don't digest. Nobody's bodies digest this. We depend on the bacteria in our guts to break it down for us. If our microbiota is out if whack, oligosaccharides can cause digestive issues. Galactooligosaccharides is what Beano helps with: it's an enzyme that specifically breaks down this carbohydrate. Fava beans don't contain galactooligosaccharides!! So compared to common beans, it's generally easier to digest. Favism is caused by a genetic factor and has nothing to do with indigestion, cooking, or phytohaemagglutinin. You either have it and must avoid favas in any form, or you don't.
20220430_154907.jpg
Fava patch in April
Fava patch in April
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Fava tips for pesto
Fava tips for pesto
 
Anita Martin
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Another interesting thread that shows that varieties of plants are bigger than I thought!

I try fava beans every year, and most years I take down a note in my garden journal: don't plant again, not worth the effort!
But then again, they are so delicious!

In Germany they are considered "Feingemüse" (a special flavourful delicacy, hard to get and rather expensive), same as artichokes, French baby beans, asparagus and similar. You usually don't get them at all in Germany. I know from my parents in Spain that they get heaps from their farmer neighbour when it is season. And habas - note the shift from the original latin "F" to the spanish "H" variety - are a fundamental part of Spanish cuisine which made them even part of some Spanish proverbs.
Same for Italy. That was the only time I ever encountered warning signs in the grocery store that the veggie section was not safe to enter for people with favism.

Anyway, this year I have planted fava beans again and they are flowering beautifully. I hope they set enough pods. I always shake my head when I see those photos of plants loaded with pods and the texts as describing them as so easy and so early. Especially for gardeners in Northern Germany or UK this might be true (I am looking at John Seymour here), claiming that you just stick them in the earth in February (when everything is covered in ice and snow here) and then in June you can use the garden bed for the next crop. Not here!
I have also tried an overwintering variety. In my home garden it would not make sense (clay, which freezes like cement in winter) but I tried it in the fluffy soil of our allotment garden. Well, from a small bed of about two dozen plants two or three survived. But similar to winter wheat each surviving plant sent out more than one stem. I hope to remember to collect seeds which is a bit difficult in my climate.

Regarding shelling, after learning that chefs do actually remove the inner shell I like them so much better! Well worth the extra effort. You could try the Italian salad recipe of one of Germany's most famous Garden YouTubers:

It includes parmigiano, lots of parsley, garlic and some other ingredients. I am already so looking forward to preparing it!

As to the toxicity: Strange, the first time I hear about people having issues. Here in garden books it is also recommended to pick off the upper shoots to prevent the black lice, and to cook them. When you steam them they smell wonderful like a field of clover!
The family is Vicia for old world beans, they should not have the same toxins as the phaseolus (new world beans). But then again I did not study the plant in depth.

Now I got a new goal for next year: Try out more colourful varieties! All within the climatic limitations of course.
 
Anita Martin
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Here is a shot of processing the broad beans in the past and the resulting warm bean salad as shown in the recipe video. So good!
Ackerbohnen_geshc-lt.jpg
shelling the beans
shelling the beans
Ackerbohnen_rigotti.jpg
Tasty tasty!
Tasty tasty!
 
Johanna Sol
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We think favas are delicious! I have grown favas in zone 9b, both the large sized ones and smaller kinds, by planting in fall and in early spring for the past three years. We also planted a bunch about 30 years ago in southern Oregon, starting them in the fall, and had good production.

This year, I planted in January because it was so warm, then covered them periodically during hard frosts in March and April. I put them in two raised beds - one about 4 x 8 and the other 4 x 12. They are just now setting pods, right when the temperatures are warming up into the 80s. I hadn't watered them at all because they looked fine and healthy and were flowering well. However, I noticed that the newer baby pods were not filling out much and the more mature pods seemed rather slow to fill out.

However, after I gave the beans a good shot of water, they did do much better and I was able to harvest a whole bunch at once, instead of dribs and drabs. I think I planted the smaller kind this year - it was sold as bulk seed for cover cropping.

The beans were more uniform in size than with the bigger variety, and the skins were really tender when cooked. This could be because I didn't wait for all of the pods to fill to the point of feeling hard as I have done in the past. Instead, I felt for good sized beans and also picked pods where there was only one good sized bean present.

My one challenge is that I want to use those beds for summer plants so next year I plan to put them outside of the raised beds and around the edges or on the quasi hugel - quasi because the base is a huge ponderosa that was felled some time ago and left lying but had not rotted much. I have covered it with some rotten wood, weeds, and soil but it only gets water during our rainy season.
 
Kathy Vargo
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Beautiful pictures Anita!  It make s me miss my time in Sicily.  They are a lot of work, but worth the effort.  We had them on pasta.  in the Spring.   Could you share you fava bean salad recipe?  Looks like tomatoes, garlic and or onions, not sure what the greens are though.  If I remember correctly, one farmer told us he fed his beef animals on fava beans he stored in a cave, not sure if they were soaked or not before feeding.
 
Anita Martin
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Kathy Vargo wrote:Beautiful pictures Anita!  It make s me miss my time in Sicily.  They are a lot of work, but worth the effort.  We had them on pasta.  in the Spring.   Could you share you fava bean salad recipe?  Looks like tomatoes, garlic and or onions, not sure what the greens are though.  If I remember correctly, one farmer told us he fed his beef animals on fava beans he stored in a cave, not sure if they were soaked or not before feeding.


Recipe for warm Italian fava bean salad:
While you cook your fava beans, chop up one large tomato and fry in olive oil with a bit of butter, finely chop and add 2 cloves of garlic. If you like, you can now add some chopped pancetta, bacon or similar. Drain the fava beans and rinse with cold water so you can handle them right away without burning your fingers. With your nail, open the "side seam" of the hull and press to plop out the kernels. Mix with the tomato sauce, add lots of chopped parsley and grate some strong cheese to add (parmigiano, Grana padano, pecorino or whatever you get. Add salt, pepper and if you want some chile pepper.
Serves well with homemade sourdough bread.
 
Kathy Vargo
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Can't wait to try it. Thank you.
 
Sat Atma Khalsa
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I use chickpea flower sometimes in baked goods to replace eggs. I don't eat eggs and the chick pea flour is good to hold things together I also make pancakes of it, just mixing chick pea flower (besan as it is called in India or garbanzo flour in spanish) and water until you have the right consistancy. Whip well with a whisk. Then I add herbs and spices, lots of them to mask the taste of the flour a bit. These pancakes are very nice, everybody likes them even kids! I have never tried a sweet version but that may be possible too.

In Indian cooking besan flour is used to put in yoghurt when the yoghurt is heated. It holds it together as well.
It is also used in batter for pakoras etc.

I never tried bean flour, see if I run into some or if I have a lot of beans in the garden I could make some. Such a mill is a good idea. What is a good brand for this mill? (grinder?)
 
Cumba Siegler
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Hi, all,
Has anyone had the experience of having the fava flowers stripped off and eaten? It's hard to grow the beans if you don't have the flowers. Can't imagine which creature has done this.
 
C Lundquist
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Cumba Siegler wrote:Hi, all,
Has anyone had the experience of having the fava flowers stripped off and eaten? It's hard to grow the beans if you don't have the flowers. Can't imagine which creature has done this.



We've had tons of rabbits and they love legumes, particularly the flowers.
 
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