Vicia faba is a familiar legume consumed by millions of people. The flower in itself is very unique and attractive, and the seeds and plants are commonly known as Faba Bean, Fava Bean, or Broad Bean. Though I have been familiar with the 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.
Vicia faba belongs to the Leguminosae or Fabaceae family of plants. This plant with origins in western Asia. It has been cultivated from 7000-4000 B.C. and has spread throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa.
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 that produce slightly different-sized or colored beans.
The plant is an erect herb. It grows up to 2 meters or 6 feet high. Broad Bean fixes nitrogen. Vicia faba has oblong green leaves which are arranged alternately. The flowers are fragrant and white but they have a black or dark spot on them. They look similar to the pea flower and grow in clusters. They appear toward the top of the stem.
The Vicia faba seeds are oblong in shape. They range in color from green to brown and 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 they mature.
In cultures and food:
In Spanish, it is called Haba, and in Iran, similar to many other Middle Eastern countries these beans are called Baghali which is used in a popular national dish called “Baghali Polo”, a steamed dish mixed with rice and dill and accompanied by Saffron Chicken. 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.
How to grow Vicia faba:
Vicia faba is an annual plant. It flowers in spring and summer. It is easy to grow. Grow it in the sun. Plant it in moist, fertile but well-drained soil. You can plant them in autumn, for a spring crop. Alternate it throughout the year so you can benefit from the seeds in different seasons. Tall varieties need to be staked. They will not be able to easily support the weight. Sheltering them also does help.
Propagate Vicia faba ‘The Sutton’ from seed. Watch out for pea and bean weevil, Black aphids. Pinch the tips of the shoots and that could help reduce the chances of black aphid infestation. Also, watch out for Broad Bean Rust and Broad Bean Chocolate Spot. Large bumblebees enjoy these flowers.
Vicia faba ‘The Sutton’ is a dwarf variety that probably does not need staking and is an alternative for smaller spaces and gardens.
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