How to Grow Fava Beans

Oh, the poor fava bean (Vicia faba). Long appreciated elsewhere in the world this oversized legume has been slow to make it to the table in the United States.

Fava beans are delicious and full of good things like fiber and low-fat protein. So what’s the hold-up? Well, they are somewhat of a pain in the buns to prepare. The cook must shell, parboil and then remove the beans from a waxy, bitter-tasting pod before they can be used. However, the buttery consistency and nutty flavor make fava beans well worth the effort.

Also known as broad beans, Windsor beans or English beans, favas prefer cool temperatures and take 80 days to mature. Here in central Arkansas the time to plant is mid- to late-February and I always seem to miss my window of opportunity. This is the first year I finally remembered to get some planted. In regions like Southern California where winters are mild beans can also be sown in fall.

The plant is bush forming so there is no need to stake, but give it some room because they can grow 4 to 7 feet tall. Sow the seeds 1-2 inches deep, 3-6 inches apart. Space the rows 12-30 inches apart. The beans are ready to harvest when the pods are plump, around 6 inches long and still green.

Since this is my first year to grow fava beans I don’t have a collection of fabulous recipes. I’ve been eating them sautéedin olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. They are a delicious addition to salad. How do you recommend preparing them?