Fava Beans, Greens and Other Things
Fava Beans (Vicia faba)
also know as horse beans, faba beans and broad beans are the one
of the oldest agricultural crops dating back at least 5,000 years.
Historically they were grown mostly for the fresh green and dried
beans in Asia and Europe. In my garden, I grow them for the greens
and the green beans and for their nitrogen contribution to the soil.
In fact, it would be difficult to grow sustainably without them.
Not heard of fava greens – well you’re
not alone. I grew them for years and never ate the greens, but enjoyed
them as raw green beans – mostly eaten in the garden, although
a few made it to the salad bowl. But, why not eat the greens, which
are delicious both raw and cooked. If you want to try them here,
you will have to grow your own – they are simply not available
If you are growing any of your own food, including
fava beans in your inter-planting and rotational planting strategies
will provide excellent nutritional food for you, your soil creatures
and other companion plants – particularly during the cooler
growing seasons. You can grow both Sweet Loraines and Guatemala
Purples here through the winter season, without covers, by planting
them in September and October. The seeds need 65-70 F soil temperatures
to germinate well and moderate to cool daytime temperatures to bloom
and set fruit well – ideal for late fall and early winter.
Not to worry about an early frost – they are cold tolerant
We have all heard about it, some plant it - mostly
during winter as a cover crop – but few eat it. Just the term,
Edible Green Manure, takes a while to adopt. But, if you can handle
“Green Eggs and Ham”, why not “Edible Green Manure”?
It does make your garden more vigorous, by making your soil richer,
while producing food for the gardener. Incidentally, fava beans
are not the only edible green manure – all of the legumes
work that way, even though most are planted as food crops not manure
crops. While most green manure is traditionally grown during winter
and plowed under in early spring, there are other and better ways
to accomplish soil fertility in the kitchen garden.
Fava Beans and Garlic
Fava beans and garlic are a delicious culinary combination
as well as an excellent inter-planting strategy. In September or
October, set out a bed of garlic cloves on an 8-inch grid and sow
fava beans between them. The garlic will sprout and set down a strong
root system during winter. Those fava beans will germinate and grow
vigorously thorough winter – providing fava greens for the
salad bowl or steamer. By picking back the fava bean plants, you
are periodically reducing the root to shoot ratio, making the accumulated
nutrients available to the soil colony and garlic plants. When the
fava beans start to bloom profusely, (early April) cut the plants
off just beneath the soil and use the tops for mulch in the remaining
garlic bed – the soil colony will do the rest of the work
for you. About this time, the garlic plants need root space and
nutrition as the soil warms and they begin growing delicious bulbs
for your culinary pleasure. You might call this strategy –
“having your green manure and eating it too”.
till next time,
Doña Ana County Extension Master Gardener