Good Gardening: Fabulous Favas

Jun 1, 2020

KLCC Master Gardener John Fischer shows off his fabulous fava beans.
Credit John Fischer / KLCC

Here's a fabulous garden opportunity that you can't act on right now may be an exercise in bad timing, but if you don't see the results now, you won't be convinced to act when the time comes this fall.

We are eating fresh fava beans in the Fischer house. And while we are eating, the bean plants are fertilizing the soil. Fava beans are planted in fall, grow all winter, and produce a huge crop of huge beans May through July. The greens are edible as a salad ingredient all winter, and the Fava's are already on the table when you are just planting traditional summer pole or bush beans.

You can chop down the favas anytime during the planting season, and use the space for summer crops, or you can let them mature and plant a late summer lettuce, beet, or carrot, or even corn crop in the newly fertilized soil. Fava beans pull nitrogen from the air, and fix it into a form that all plants can use, so leave the roots in the ground when you pull up, or mulch in the fava crop.

Credit John Fischer / KLCC

In addition to food and fertilizer, the fava beans also keep down weeds by choking them out, and reduce soil compaction from pounding rain.

The Windsor Broad produces the tastiest beans. There are other fava varieties that are smaller, and used mostly as a green manure cover crop. 

For fresh eating, pick the pods when the beans inside are still bright green. A few brown spots are fine- that is just the beans moving toward maturity. I save seeds from this summer’s crop for a fall planting, and put the mature dried seeds in the freezer for a week to kill the little beetles that can infest them. 

The beans need to be shelled before eating, but their size makes that a quick process. Try them stir fried, steamed with butter, or cooked and chilled on a green salad. There are lots of winter cover crops that can enrich the soil, but only one that feeds you at the same time- the fabulous fava.

Credit John Fischer / KLCC

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