Fava Beans are a great crop to grow in Coastal California. They can be planted in the fall for a spring harvest or in the spring for a fall harvest. Under the right conditions, the plants can reach over 4 feet tall and have long pods filled with big tasty beans. When grown over the rainy season, irrigation is often unnecessary due the plentiful rain. The leaves are edible, and often show up in gourmet dining establishments when they’re in season. As a bonus, they can be used as a cover crop in the winter to reduce weed growth and boost your soil fertility. A great addition to any garden, Fava Beans are easy to grow and fun to prepare.
To incorporate the all mighty fava into our garden I went to the seed bank at Subrosa last spring and procured some heirloom purple fava beans (about 5 seeds total). I sowed these in the back of our parcel for the 2011 summer season. After many months of growing, blooming, and finally drying, the fava bean seeds were ready for harvest. I collected a basket full of dried fava bean pods and brought them home. After a few more days drying in the sun on my the porch, I shelled the beans and gathered them into a glass jar to save for later. In the fall the whole parcel was sown with the beans in rows about 18 inches apart. These hearty plants grew all winter with the help of the sun and rain. In April, when the first seed pods were forming, I cut down three quarters of the plants and dug them into the soil for compost. The remaining favas stayed in the ground a few more weeks until the pods were large and fully developed. Last week they were ready, so I harvested three quarters of the remaining beans. One row was left for seeds.
The fresh fava bean pods were brought home, and together we shelled the first bag of them. The whole beans were then boiled for one minute and then drained. After this, the beans have to be husked one by one. Once this is done, you are ready to enjoy your beans. Some people complain that fava beans are lot of work to prepare. This may be true, but in reality the work is easy and goes by pretty quickly. I feel that the ease of growing and harvesting of these beans makes up for the little bit of extra work in the kitchen. And besides, if you grow your own dry beans, you have to shell them anyways, so the difference in work between favas and black or pinto beans is minimal.
We ate our fava beans over a bed of quinoa with a garnish of fresh garden oregano and cilantro with lemon juice and pine nuts. A dash of salsa livened up the mixture with some fresh chile and tomato flavor.