On March 7th, I planted fava beans for my first time ever. I learned about them in England, but really grew to love them over the years we’ve visited Italy. They remind me of a lima bean (butter bean for you southerners) on steroids, but with their own slightly different flavor. I adore them! There are lots of recipes using favas in the cookbooks I brought back from Puglia: Fava with Early Greens; Artichokes & Fava; Pasta with Favas and Mussels; Fava with Chicory; Fava Puree with Shrimp, and on and on. Sadly, I can’t find favas locally, so hopefully, I can grow them. I thought about starting them early in pots, because they like cool weather and a long growing season, but we were having such unusually great weather that I just direct seeded them. I divided the seed into halves, seeding one half in a raised bed. The other half went into the south interior border, directly in the “ground.” I chose that spot because it will be lightly shaded by the fence rails. Maybe if it turns too hot too early, and the ones in the raised bed pout and wither in the heat, the others will carry on. I’m hedging my bets by trying different micro-climates.
I also pondered soaking the seeds, but rain was predicted, so I thought I’d let Mother Nature do the soaking. As you can see from the photo, there was 100% germination in the raised bed and by April 11th they were 6″ tall. There was nothing to photograph in the other planting on that date, but a couple of plants sprouted later that week. Today, they look like this: Pretty spotty and small, but they are catching up. In fact, two more germinated yesterday.
I know the tender leaves of favas are also edible, but I’m not picking any now in the hope that the plants will use all their leaves for better production. However, if the temperatures get consistently above 75 degrees, I may eat the tender tips because that may be all I get! The leaves are good in salads, slightly wilted in olive oil, or sauteed with garlic. I bought a small jar of truffle salt on our last trip to Italy’s Truffle Festival just to sprinkle on fava leaves and beans. The flowers are tasty, too. I think a crostata spread lightly with soft cheese or butter, sprinkled with truffle salt, and topped with a fava flower is worth a try, don’t you?
Part of the fun of gardening is challenging oneself. I’ve kept good notes, and will be able to make improvements in their culture. I’ve already decided next year I will start some in pots to get a head start. Where I plant them will depend upon how they do this year. Even if I don’t get a real crop of beans this year, the favas are great at penetrating less than ideal soils, and like other legumes gather nitrogen in their roots, so they will aid soil improvement. I’ll clip off mature plants to make great compost, so it’s a win regardless. I’m excited to see what happens. Our forecast is for cool, wet weather, so the favas should be happy—unless they drown. The anticipation, the uncertainty, the challenge, the learning curve is all part of the reason I absolutely love to garden.