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 sautéed in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. They are a delicious addition to salad. How do you recommend preparing them?

16 Responses to Fava Beans

  1. carol stoudt says:

    I usually use dried Fava beans when I can find them.
    So I soak them, usually overnite.Rinse and cook in water with garlic olive oil and . when almost done I add fresh chopped basil and a chuck of butter.I know it is not good for you but I love to eat them with alot of salt sprinkled on them. They are even good cold.tossed in salads.With their great nutty taste.

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  3. maria lindemann says:

    I love fava beans , my mom use to cook them in a soup with kale onions etc.. as well as a side dish here in new hampshire i tried growing but im too north up and its not enough time for them to grow before winter sets in but im so happy to hear your trying it .
    good luck ,
    let me know how it grew for you,


    • Hi Maria!
      That sounds like a great way to prepare them. I went up to the garden today and discovered ours are still producing despite what feels like our first blush with summer! They certainly like cooler temps.
      Best wishes,

  4. patti says:

    I just love Fava’s. I planted some seeds on May 1st this year and just put them in the ground. I live in NE Ohio. We’ll See ! ! !
    I saute bacon and onions, add the prepared Fava’s and add a little wine and sugar. Makes a Great sauce to put over brown rice.
    Our grocery store is now selling Fava’s in the produce dept. YEAH ! ! ! Just incase mine don’t make it in the garden ! ! !

  5. mary says:

    Have you heard about tilling the fava bean plant into the soil when the season is over? My sister-in-law is a wonderful gardener and she said she learned this tip from a neighbor. She grows beautiful vegetables and plants in the San Jose area of California.

    Thank you for the hints re cooking. I am anxious to get to my produce store to see if they have any. If not…I may suggest they order some for all of us who read P. Allen Smith!

    I always enjoy your site. Keep up the wonderful work.

  6. Kathy says:

    I just got back from Greece, where on the island of Santorini, the favorite local dish is “fava.” I ordered some and it was very similar to hummus. Since hummus is ground chick peas, perhaps fava is made from fava beans?

  7. Linda Taylor says:

    I love fava beans, up here in Alaska I start indoors, transplant into greenhouse & grow. I eat them just buttered as a snack. Also, any beans that fall to the ground will overwinter and will come up on their own the next spring. The seeds survive our freezing temps in winter it seems.

  8. syb blythe says:

    In Northern CA we just had them at the Farmers`Market. I just boil them aldente in water after I peel them out of their woolly shell and use as a vegetable. I always buy extra and freeze them on a cookie sheet. They have a lovely nutty flavor warm or cold.

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