Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Vicia fava

I was surprised to learn that some gardeners grow vicia fava, commonly known as fava, horse, Windsor, Tick, Pigeon or broad bean, as a cover crop.  A relative of vetch, also widely used as a cover crop, the fava bean is a cool season annual legume. 

I was also surprised to learn that fava beans are used as livestock and poultry feed. 

I was also surprised to learn that fava beans are not more commonly eaten.  If harvested young, these beans are delicious and nutritious!  For a complete nutritional breakdown, click here.

Facts about fava beans
  • native to the Mediterranean region, especially Italy and Iran
  • one of the oldest cultivated plants
  • in North America, Canada is considered the largest producer of fava beans
  • the large-seeded cultivars bear 1 or 2 pods at each node while the small-seeded types produce from 2-5 pods
  • stored properly, seed life is 3 years
  • the dry beans are about 24% protein, 2% fat, and 50% carbohydrate, and have 700 calories per cup
  • when growing for seed production, the crop matures in 4-5 months
  • resistant to frost damage to at least 21 degrees F but doesn`t thrive under summer heat
  • germination:  7 to 14 days
  • plant 1 to 2 inches deep, 3 to 5 inches apart; then thin to 8 to 10 inches apart
  • for eating fresh, harvest the pods when they are green, thick and have a glossy sheen (can be stored in refrigerator up to 2 days)
  • cook in boiling water 20 to 25 minutes
  • savory, an herb, pairs well with fava beans
  • fava beans are susceptible to aphid (in particular, black) and bean weevil attack
  • Favism, an inherited disorder found in some people of southern European origin, is characterized by an enzyme deficiency expressed when fava beans are eaten, especially raw or partially cooked. Symptoms commonly include acute toxic hepatitis and those similar to influenza. Males are more commonly affected than females; mortality is almost entirely confined to children. Fava plant pollen in the respiratory tract also affects these people.  I was surprised to learn this.
  • A simple way to prepare fava beans is to toss them with a little olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic and fresh sage. Add salt and pepper to taste. For the best flavour, let stand about an hour to combine the flavours. Try adding them to pasta, rice dishes and soups.
  • For tasty fava bean recipes, check out this link and this one.
If you Powell River gardeners didn't get your fava beans sown in the fall, now is the time to do it!  Or maybe you will find these little treasures at Powell River's Seedy Saturday on Saturday, March 9th and can sow them in the fall.  Try 'em, you'll like them...

Crimson Flowered Broad Bean
Resources:  University of California, Marin Master Gardeners; Nutritiondata; Mother Nature Network; & Huffington Post

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