What do movie buffs, cooking buffs, and plant history buffs have in common? A deep appreciation for the Fava Bean! This tasty and timeless staple of a legume is popular in pop culture quotes and delicious cuisine the world over.
Kick back with a delicious glass of Chianti (or not!) and read on to learn why Fava Beans are a great legume for home growing, snacking, and so much more.
History of Fava Beans
Fava Beans, which are also known as Broad Beans, are a popular breed of legume with a truly fascinating heritage that reaches all around the world.
This is one of the oldest known bean crops and cultivated plants in the history of the world. In fact, these wonderful beans can trace their origins all the way back to around the time of 6,000 B.C., when they were a staple crop of such civilizations as the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, and others in the areas of the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia.
Since then, Fava Beans have continued to spread in popularity. Nowadays, they are widely grown and included in cuisines in such worldwide locations as the Middle East, South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and, to a lesser extent, the United States.
Characteristics of Fava Beans
Fava Beans are a springtime crop, one of the qualities that makes them particularly popular. While many beans and other plants come to ripening status in the late summer and early fall, Fava Beans give growers something to enjoy in the early months of the year. However, this particular variety of beans has failed to reach the same popularity as other legumes such as certain peas and beans in the United States due to the difficulty that comes in preparing them.
Characteristically, you will find Fava Beans grow in a green, pea-like pod that is several inches long and contains the beans themselves. Though Fava Beans are best known for having somewhat of a bumpy or cushioned shell, it is actually wise to purchase or harvest bean pods that are tighter and firmer, as this indicates ripeness. Pods that are too bumpy indicate overly aged and often bitter beans inside.
Ripe, healthy Fava Beans themselves are generally bright green and flat in appearance, with 4 or 5 of these beans to a pod. The beans themselves are encased within a shell of skin that is clear or white and hard and usually needs to be removed before eating. This can be done by taking a fine-tipped knife and slitting open the shell or boiling and blanching to soften it.
It is because of the work of removing this skin shell, as well as a higher-than-average cost for purchasing Fava Beans in grocery stores and supermarkets, that this variety of bean has unfortunately lost a lot of ground in popularity. This is particularly true in the United States, where these beans are pitted against other legume varieties that are easier to prepare and lower in cost.
Nevertheless, when one puts in the money and effort to purchase and properly prepare Fava Beans, the reward is quite enriching!
Though they hold a similar appearance to Lima Beans, Fava Beans are much less starchy and have a milder, less bean-forward flavor. They have been described with a flavor profile that is anywhere from faintly reminiscent of cheese or spinach to one that is overall earthy and nutty. They have a creamy texture and taste, and an aftertaste that ranges anywhere from slightly sweet (when younger) to slightly bitter (when aged).
Fava Beans Specifics
The first step to eating Fava Beans is to prepare them properly. You can split open a Fava Bean pod in much the same way as a pea pod: simply by removing the tip of the pod, stripping off the fiber along the crease, and then running your fingernail over the seam and splitting open the body of the pod. This will expose the Fava Beans within.
Now you have a choice. You can take the fine point of a knife and slit open the inner shells to release the Fava Beans, which is very detailed work. You can also blanch your Fava Beans in salted, boiling water for roughly 90 seconds, pop them immediately into an ice bath, then easily push them out of the shells.
Either of these methods is valid and simply depends on what you have time for.
Once you have removed the Fava Beans from their shells, you have the option of simply consuming them raw, or cooking them. Many people enjoy raw Fava Beans much like Sugar Snap peas and other raw legumes. However, they also hold up fantastically to such preparatory methods as steaming, boiling, stewing, sautéing, mashing, and even frying or roasting up!
Fava Beans also make a great component in many soups, raw on salads, and as a mashed spread on bruschetta and other types of toasts, similar to how avocado is often prepared. The sky is truly the limit for how you want to season and prepare your Fava Beans!
There are quite a few wonderful health benefits to consuming Fava Beans.
Among the most obvious and straightforward of these health benefits is the high concentration of various nutrients within these beans. Included on this list would be such things as manganese, magnesium, copper, and iron. These attributes alone, when consumed regularly and in a bioavailable source such as the Fava Bean, can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and heart issues, as well as give a solid boost to the immune system.
One of the lesser known but fantastic health benefits provided by Fava Beans is a reduction in the risk of birth defects. Because these legumes are high in folate, which is a kind of bioavailable folic acid, they can assist in healthy fetal development, particularly in early pregnancy. Thus, women who consume Fava Beans as part of a prenatal diet are likely to reduce their baby’s overall risk of birth defects.
There is also a marginal but no less important boost in vitamins and minerals that can be found in regular Fava Bean consumption as well.
Growing At Home
Fava Beans are a great option for gardeners looking to start a bean harvest at home. They do not require an excessive amount of space or care, which is excellent for those with smaller home gardens or patches of land. They are also a cold preferential variety of bean, meaning they will do much better in chilly weather than some of their contemporaries.
When it comes to size, Fava Bean plants typically grow anywhere from about 2 to 6 feet tall, with a plant radius of roughly a foot in span. Ideal soil for this variety of beans is moist, loamy, and well drained, with balanced acidity, but they can do well in other types of soil as well so long as they drain properly. Your plants will need access to full or partial sunlight throughout the growing season.
Like most other sorts of legumes, Fava Bean plants enrich the soil with nitrogen themselves, so they do not require fertilization. However, you may feed with an emulsion tailored for legume varieties and compost the soil to help the plants along.
You will want to plant your Fava Bean seeds 1 to 2 inches deep and about 4 inches apart, with 20 inches or more of space between each row of plants, and plant them in either the fall or the early spring. Fall planting will afford you an earlier springtime harvest, while early spring planting will see your Fava Bean harvest coming due around late summer.
In terms of watering needs, Fava Bean plants require average watering amounts. About 1 inch per week of water should do it. If you are in a season of drought, you may need to up your watering schedule just a bit, but return to average watering as soon as possible to avoid oversaturating the plant.
One thing to bear in mind with Fava Bean plants is that, due to their preference for cooler weather, this is a legume variety that can really suffer in times of excessive heat. High heat can uptick their risk of catching diseases, so it is best to stick to planting them in times when temperatures will be on average between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
You have the option of harvesting your Fava Bean crop to enjoy fresh throughout the season, or once they have dried out. Whether you prefer dried beans or fresh, moist beans, you will love that one-of-a-kind Fava Bean taste!
Where To Buy Fava Beans
Fava Bean seeds can be purchased online, and this is often a less expensive option than hunting for Fava Beans locally. We recommend sourcing the Aquadulce Fava Bean variety from True Leaf Market, as this variety does will with both springtime and fall season planting. It has a growth period of just 70 to 90 days.
Wrapping Up Fava Beans
Ready to enjoy some delicious Fava Beans grown right at home? Make sure you are fully prepared for the growing process!
Want to learn more about beans? Visit our bean plants page to discover more about beans!