Vicia faba is a familiar legume consumed by millions of people. The flower in itself is very unique and attractive. the seeds and plants are commonly known as Faba Bean, Fava Bean, or Broad Bean. Though I have been familiar with fava bean which is a high protein legume, since childhood, I had never seen the plant until a recent walk in London where I saw it planted in a border on the sidewalk.
Fava bean is similar to Lima bean, and they are flat. They are sometimes also known as English Beans, European Beans, Pigeon Peas, Tick Beans, Tick Peas, and even Windsor Beans, many of these names also refer to different varieties which produce slightly different sized or colored beans.
Vicia faba belongs to the Leguminosae or Fabaceae family of plants. This plant with origins in western Asia has been cultivated since 7000-4000 B.C. and has spread throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa.
The plant is an erect herb that can grow up to 2 meters or 6 feet high. Broad Bean fixes nitrogen. Vicia faba has oblong green leaves that are arranged alternately. The flowers are fragrant and white in color but they have a black or dark spot on them. They are similar in look to the pea flower. They appear in clusters and appear toward the top of the stem.
The Vicia faba seeds which are oblong in shape and can range in color from green to brown appear in pods that could be as long as 18in or 45cm, they are picked when they are green in color but the color can change to black as it matures. People with inherited Hemolytic Syndrome could have a bad anemic reaction to fava beans. Due to this reaction in ancient Greece they called them the beans of death.
In Spanish, it is called Haba, and in Iran, similar to many other Middle Eastern countries these beans are called Baghali where it is used in a popular national dish called “Baghali Polo”, a steamed dish mixed with rice and dill and accompanied by Saffron Chicken.
This is an annual plant the flowers in spring and summer. It is easy to grow. Plant it in the sun in a moist, fertile but well-drained soil. You can plant them in autumn, for a spring crop or alternate it throughout the year so you can benefit from the seeds in different seasons. Tall varieties need to be staked as they will not be able to easily support the weight and sheltering them also does help.
Propagate Vicia faba ‘The Sutton’ is a dwarf from seed. Watch out for pea and bean weevil, Black aphids, if you pinch the tips of the shoots it could help reduce the chances of black aphid infestation. Also, look out for Broad Bean Rust and Broad Bean Chocolate Spot. Large bumble-bees enjoy these flowers.
Vicia faba ‘The Sutton’ is a dwarf variety that probably does not need staking and an alternative for smaller spaces and gardens.