Wednesday, January 20, 2016

End of Season Review - Fava Beans


This was my first year growing fava beans and it was great fun watching the plants develop & the pods form - I really had very little idea what to expect.  As far as I can tell, favas (or broad beans in the UK) are not commonly grown in North American vegetable gardens.

Fresh Extra Precoce Violetto Favas
 
To start my fava adventure, I decided to grow both a short variety (Extra Precoce Violetto), recommended by Michelle, and a tall variety (Ianto's Fava).

I sowed the seed just before we went away in April & was a bit concerned about how it would fair.  When we got back from holiday, there was still no sign of germination.  I didn’t press the panic button just yet, though.  The first hint of germination came over 2 weeks after they were sown, on May 4th. By May 7th, about 1/3 of the seedlings had emerged.

Favas - 3 weeks after seeding
 
Even the shorter fava plants grew a bit lanky, and with the weight of the pods, they tended to fall over if left unsupported.  I did give the Violetto's some support using rebar and twine, but they flopped over into a bit of a mess during a rainstorm, so I obviously didn’t do a very good job of it.  The Ianto's faired somewhat better.  Since I knew they were a tall variety, I grew them along a cattle panel trellis and tied/twisted them around the trellis as they grew.

The final in a series of Extra Precoce Violetto harvests
 
The Violetto fava pods were quite a bit larger than the Ianto’s, the latter holding only one or two beans vs. Violetto which usually contained 3 or 4.  In fact, I left the Ianto pods on the vine a bit too long as I thought they would get larger, and then ended up harvesting only one large crop consisting of both fresh & dried favas.

The one and only harvest of Ianto's Fava


Inside the Pods - Dried Ianto Fava Beans

I actually became a bit concerned when the pods started to turn black on the vine – my initial thought was that there was something wrong with them.

Blackening pods are usually not a good sign...
In the case of favas, however, it's their natural progression
 
It took quite a bit of googling to find out that this is what they looked like as they started to dry out.  When they were completely dry, the pods were black and fuzzy:

Dried Ianto Fava Pods

One other surprise was that each plant developed multiple stems from the base, something that I didn't notice until later on in the season:

Multiple stems emerged from the base of a
Extra Precoce Violetto plant
 
Both varieties were equally delicious fresh, although I haven’t tried cooking with any of the dried beans yet.  I didn't do a comparison of the fresh beans, but when dried, the Ianto's were about half the size of the Violetto's.

Dried Favas
Ianto (left); Extra Violetto (right)

In terms of their performance in the garden, each had it's strong points.








Even with the smaller pods and smaller beans, it does seem that Ianto had a higher overall yield, especially when you consider that I ended up with primarily dried beans which would have weighed less than if they had been harvested fresh.

Violetto, however, is definitely easier to deal with because of the shorter plants.  It’s also earlier to produce, although I didn't start harvesting Ianto's when I should have so I'm not exactly certain how much earlier it was.


Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year

This was a fun crop to grow & I particularly like that you can get it started super early as, unlike regular beans, favas actually prefer cool conditions.  It's not a huge producer, but it only occupies the spot until mid-summer at which point I can use the space for another crop.

My timing for the spring planting was good, but I may be able to sow the seeds earlier if I can get the soil warmed up (i.e. unfrozen) sooner or if I start the seeds indoors, a technique I see many UK gardeners using.  I’m also wondering if I could squeeze in a 2nd planting, even though favas are not supposed to be suitable for growing during the summer.

This time round I planted 2 seeds per spot and spaced each spot 6” apart.  I’m thinking of perhaps doing things a bit differently next year, although I haven't made a final plan yet.  Fava beans seem to be one of those veg with a lot of variation in how they are planted.

I will also change up my support method, but what I eventually go with will depend on how I decide to sow the seeds – either planting them individually in a grid or sowing them in groupings with wider spacing.

I won’t be trying any new varieties at this point.  Since I now know what the growth habits of these two varieties are, I would prefer to stick with them when I do my tinkering on spacing and timing.  I have plenty of saved seed from both varieties, which is a good thing as the original seed packets didn't hold that many seeds and I ended up sowing them all.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

20 comments:

  1. Broad Beans are VERY popular in the UK. The varieties I have grown are mostly the "Longpod" types, (e.g. "Imperial Green Longpod") which typically have 7 or 8 beans per pod, though I have also grown "Stereo" which is much shorter as a plant and has small pods with 4 or 5 beans - good for small gardens like mine. Those black ones of yours look really weird - almost bad!

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    1. They do look awful, don't they? It's no wonder I thought there was something wrong with them! But inside, the dried beans are absolutely perfect.

      I think it was seeing all of the broad beans growing in UK gardens that got me to add them to my list this past year - and I'm sure glad I did!

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  2. We freeze lots of the fresh beans. Did you notice the perfume of the flowers? When I hear them called fava beans I can't help thinking of Hannibal Lechter

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    1. No, I didn't notice the perfume - must get my nose in there this year! Yikes - I had not thought of ol' Hannibal as we call them favas as a matter of course...I wonder if their absence from gardens around here is related ;)

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  3. When I grew them I used a cage to support them. Bought some
    tomato cages and unfolded them to make the cage. I picked them when the pods started to fall over from their upright posture. Poor germination and low yield just didn't make them worth the trouble when I can buy big bags of frozen beans.

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    1. I'm always up for a challenge - the tomato cage idea is a good one & I actually have a few folding ones that I don't use anymore.

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  4. I've been growing broadbeans for a few years too. I always plant too many and then i never know what to do with them. I freeze and blanch mine.

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    1. Aaah, so that's why your freezer is so full ;)

      I certainly didn't have that problem this year...if I'm lucky, I may have it next year!

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  5. Some people sow their broad beans here in the autumn and let them stand in the ground over winter, though that probably wouldn't work for you, I doubt they'd enjoy such freezing conditions as they'd get there. I've only grown broad beans a couple of times myself, they're my least favourite bean so I prefer to use the space for runners or French beans.

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    1. Yes, I doubt they would survive, although I do recall one garden I visited in Niagara Falls about 20 years ago and they were able to overwinter some type of climbing bean, but I can't recall what it was. They are a tad warmer there than we are here, so I'm sure that makes a big difference.

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  6. Golly, I don't know if I've even ever eaten fava beans. I like the idea of growing beans and having dried beans for later. Do you let them completely dry on the vine or pick when they start to dry?

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    1. You can pick them at either time. I usually prefer to pick the when they are mature & just starting to dry out; I have a feeling that may also increase how much you harvest, but I've not tested that theory out yet.

      Beans are SO much fun, relatively easy to grow and add nitrogen back to the soil. You should give them a try...I'm sure you could squeeze them in somewhere on those extra acres ;)

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  7. Favas are one of my favorite things to grow and eat! You hit on the reaon why I always grow Extra Precoce Violetto, the are early, which means I can get summer beans going in the same spot. I do (or used to do) the same as David, grow them in tomato cages, which keeps them from flopping and also provides support for bird netting early in the season. I always grow them in the same spot where I grew tomatoes so in my mild climate I sow the favas as soon as I remove the tomato plants. Last year I tied my tomato plants to a trellis so this year the favas are getting the same treatment.

    This year you have to try grilled or roasted favas, oh my are they delicious and the easiest way ever to prepare them. The pods are picked when you can feel a nice fat bean inside but before they start to bulge up. Slick the pods with some olive oil and then grill or roast them until they have dark brown or slightly blacken spots and the pods are tender. Then season the pods with salt and whatever other seasonings strike your fancy and then get messy - eat them with your hands, pop the beans out like edamame and then if the pods were tender enough eat them too, about the only thing not edible are the strings running along the sides of the pods. Food52 and 101 Cookbooks both have good recipes or just do a web search, there's lots of good recipes for grilled favas out there.

    And don't forget to taste some of the tender new leaves, they can be eaten as a salad green or cooked like spinach.

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    1. Such wonderful suggestions, Michelle - thanks! I've made a note of the grilled/roasted favas and will definitely give them a go this year. I would never have thought to eat the new leaves - I haven't eaten pea shoots either, so I must give both of them a try.

      When I used the trellis for the Ianto favas, it was ok, but I did find it a bit tedious to keep them attached to the trellis. The fact that I had a double row with 2 trellises, likely didn't help matters. I'll be interested to see what you do and how you find using a trellis for them this year.

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  8. I really like how Michelle grows them in the same spot as her tomatoes will go. I've over-wintered Windsor broad beans before with an October planting, and with an unusually early spring we got fava beans by March.

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    1. I love veg that overwinter, but have yet not been very successful at it. To be fair, I haven't given it a really good try - I do have some spinach under a bit of straw at the moment, so we will see how that does. It really would be wonderful to have that extra early harvest, when everything else is just getting started.

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  9. I've contemplated growing favas before, but I've never done it. I wasn't sure how they would do with our springs that like to go from cool to hot really quickly. How cold of temperatures can they handle? I'm wondering how early I could plant them or maybe even overwinter them.

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    1. I don't really know much about fava beans and am not sure if their preference towards cooler weather is more in terms of germination or actual growth - I may find out next year as one idea I'm tossing around is doing a summer sowing of favas that would mature in the fall. I believe Phuong is in zone 6b & you are in 7 - since she was able to overwinter broad beans, I would say you have a very good shot of being successful as well.

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  10. I have never eaten fava beans ever, so not sure if I like them. But the fact that you can start them so early then have them out of the space by mid-summer certainly makes them an ideal crop! I think I'll try some at the farmer's market this year to see if I want to give them a go. Beautiful pics of the plants, Margaret.

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    1. They are mild, almost nutty, and creamy in texture - so yum! From what I know of your tastes, I have a feeling you will really like them.

      Although I haven't tried the dried ones yet, I do recall my mom making them when I was a kid and they had a stronger taste and drier texture...although that may have just been because of how she cooked them.

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