Fava Beans or Broad Beans or vicia faba

Looking for a cold-weather cover crop?  A bean source for mild-winter climates?  Look no further than your friendly legume family.  Today’s highlight is on the fava bean (vicia faba).

Taken from Wikipedia:

Vicia faba, the broad bean, fava bean, faba bean, horse bean, field bean, tic bean is a species of bean (Fabaceae) native to north Africa and southwest Asia, and extensively cultivated elsewhere. Although usually classified in the same genus Vicia as the vetches, some botanists treat it in a separate monotypic genus as Faba sativa Moench.

Broad beans in the pod

Broad beans in the pod

It is a rigid, erect plant 0.5-1.7 m tall, with stout stems with a square cross-section. The leaves are 10-25 cm long, pinnate with 2-7 leaflets, and of a distinct glaucous grey-green color; unlike most other vetches, the leaves do not have tendrils for climbing over other vegetation. The flowers are 1-2.5 cm long, with five petals, the standard petal white, the wing petals white with a black spot (true black, not deep purple or blue as is the case in many “black” colorings [1]), and the keel petals white. The fruit is a broad leathery pod, green maturing blackish-brown, with a densely downy surface; in the wild species, the pods are 5-10 cm long and 1 cm diameter, but many modern cultivars developed for food use have pods 15-25 cm long and 2-3 cm thick. Each pod contains 3-8 seeds; round to oval and 5-10 mm diameter in the wild plant, usually flattened and up to 20-25 mm long, 15 mm broad and 5-10 mm thick in food cultivars. Vicia faba has a diploid (2n) chromosome number of 12, meaning that each cell in the plant has 12 chromosomes (6 homologous pairs). Five pairs are acrocentric chromosomes and 1 pair is metacentric

We will be ordering our fava beans from Bountiful Gardens.  A packet of beans for 3.25 plus shipping seems a fairly good deal.

Culinary uses for the fava bean (many more not listed)

Broad beans have a long tradition of cultivation in Old World agriculture, being among the most ancient plants in cultivation and also among the easiest to grow. It is believed that along with lentils, peas, and chickpeas, they became part of the eastern Mediterranean diet in around 6000 BC or earlier. They are still often grown as a cover crop to prevent erosion because they can over-winter and because as a legume, they fix nitrogen in the soil. These commonly cultivated plants can be attacked by fungal diseases, such as Rust (Uromyces viciae-fabae) and Chocolate Spot (Botrytis fabae).

Mature field bean pods

In much of the Anglophone world, the name broad bean is used for the large-seeded cultivars grown for human food, while horse bean and field bean refer to cultivars with smaller, harder seeds (more like the wild species) used for animal feed, though their stronger flavour is preferred in some human food recipes, such as falafel. The term fava bean (from the Italian fava, meaning “broad bean”) is its most common name in the United States, with broad bean being the most common name in the UK.

Broad beans are eaten while still young and tender, enabling harvesting to begin as early as the middle of spring for plants started under glass or over-wintered in a protected location, but even the maincrop sown in early spring will be ready from mid to late summer. Horse beans, left to mature fully, are usually harvested in the late autumn.

The beans can be fried, causing the skin to split open, and then salted and/or spiced to produce a savory crunchy snack. These are popular in China, Peru (habas saladas), Mexico (habas con chile) and in Thailand (where their name means “open-mouth nut”).

In the Sichuan cuisine of China, broad beans are combined with soybeans and chili peppers to produce a spicy fermented bean paste called doubanjiang.

In most Arab countries the fava bean is used for a breakfast meal called ful medames. Ful medames is usually crushed fava beans in a sauce although the Fava beans do not have to be crushed.

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