Growing Fava Beans

As a fledgling gardener, one thing I have been trying to do each year is to grow something new, so that I can expand my gardening knowledge and broaden my culinary horizons!

This past year I decided to try fava beans.  Why?  Because I was in a natural food market and saw these beautiful, huge, marinated, wonderfully flavored beans.  They were in one of those “help yourself” bars along with marinated and/or pickled olives, mushrooms and peppers.  They were so good!

There wasn’t a sign anywhere saying what kind of a bean they were, but a friendly customer next to me said she thought they were fava beans.  So, I decided I would try growing my own fava beans and find a recipe for this wonderful, flavorful snack!

growing broad beansTurns out I was misinformed.  The marinated beans were not fava beans, but a type of lima bean.  Oh well.  I had already bought the bean seeds and they had germinated by the time I figured this out.  Speaking of the seeds…

I found a wonderful seed company that I just adore!  They are based out of Chico, California and I had the opportunity to visit their store recently.  More about that in another story to come soon.

So, on with the fava beans!

The beans were very quick to sprout and were setting their first true leaves within 10 days!  Of course, I attribute some of this to my homemade kelp fertilizer, with the natural gibberellic acid in it, which is a growth hormone for plants.

I started the beans in an enclosed patio, about 4 weeks before the beginning of spring, because fava beans are much like english peas, they are somewhat of a cool weather crop and would be harvested sometime in May or June.  I had a picture of the seedlings growing in their pots, but alas, my camera got run over by our truck (don’t ask) and I was unable to retrieve all of my pictures.  🙁  But, once I put them in the ground, they started growing…growing broad beans

and growing…

I should have had some type of support for the plants, even though they are a bush type of bean, because some of the stems that were about 2 feet long started to twist and droop as they grew, I guess from their own weight.  A few even broke.  I’m not sure if that is the nature of the plant, or gardener (me) error. 😉

growing broad beansOnce the fava bean plants began to bloom, I was totally in awe!  The blossoms are gorgeous!  The white with beautiful lavender throats really stood out.  To me, they resembled an orchid. Apparently the pollinators thought they were pretty cool, also, because it wasn’t long before small, tiny bean pods developed.  In fact, in the picture on the left, you can see a butterfly (or is that a moth) with it’s head plunged head into the flower!  You can click on the picture for a better view.

Then we had a hail storm!  Shoot!  Nuts!  The hail absolutely destroyed some of my garden plants and heavily damaged others.  Luckily, the fava bean plants seemed to be fairly resilient. Though they were pretty well bruised, the leaves healed and recovered fairly quickly!growing fava beans

Within another month the bean pods were huge.  I mean H U G E! You can see in the picture at the left that the pods are bigger than my fingers!

growing broad beans

Once the outside of the pods started to show the bulge of the beans inside, it was time to harvest. Since I only had four bean plants (which I originally thought would be plenty to experiment with), I decided to dry them in the pod, as it didn’t seem like I was going to get very many actual beans.  I harvested each pod as it appeared to have mature beans inside, let it dry in the pod, and then shucked the beans into a bowl. Oh, by the way, most other people in the world call them Broad Beans!



Let’s get real here.  The plants grew well.  The flowers were gorgeous.  But this is all the beans I got?


growing fava beans

Then, I went online to see how to prepare the beans.


I found this on Dr. Weil’s website:

Cooking time: 60-120 minutes

Liquid per cup of legume: 3 cups

How to cook fava beans: Soak overnight. Drain water. If your fava beans were not already shelled, you should be able to slip the outer skins off after soaking by squeezing the beans between your fingers. Once favas are shelled, fill pot with fresh, cold water for cooking. Place on stove and bring to a boil in a pot with a lid. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, tilting the lids slightly to allow steam to escape, and leave to cook for one to two hours, until tender or desired consistency.

Whaaaaaaaa….?  I have to soak overnight and slip the outer skins off of EACH BEAN! That seems like a pretty time consuming task to me!  These puppies better be worth it!

So, I soaked my meager bowl of fava beans overnight and then tried to “slip” off the skins. Umm… nope!  The skins did not slip off in any way, shape or form.  Then I started wondering if I had skinless beans (could I be so lucky?), and dug with my nail into one of the soaked beans to see.


growing and cooking broad beans

Yeah – not very pretty. I guess this is what happens when you soak your fava beans longer than overnight, so that the skins will “slip” off. NOT!

Except mine were so thick they would not slip off.  So, I decided to soak them for a little longer.  Still didn’t work.  I went ahead and gouged each skin off (not very carefully, as I grumbled the entire 1/2 hour it took me to do it), and finally boiled them for almost an hour.

The result?  They pretty much turned to mush!

I guess the extra soaking didn’t do any favors for the texture of the cooked bean, because they all split apart and were almost unrecognizable as beans.  Harruummph!

Were they good?  Well, I guess so.  I like beans, and these tasted like… well… beans!

But, rather than eat mushy beans, I decided to puree them and use them as a dip that is very similar to hummus.  I found this recipe on the Whole Foods website.  It was good!  Not great, but good. If you try this recipe, I would recommend making the hummus at least an hour ahead of time and then let it sit for a while, allowing the flavors to meld.

broad bean hummus

Fava bean hummus. I tried to make it look pretty. . .   really I tried.

My take on all of this?  Well, let’s just say I am not going to grow fava beans this year. They took up waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy too much garden space for such little result.

One bowl of hummus.  😉

And since we didn’t swoon over their flavor and texture, why bother?

Was the experiment worth it?  You bet!  Now I have a better knowledge of what fava (broad) beans look like and taste like, how to grow them and how to prepare them. Who knows… someday I might have a larger garden and want to try growing then again, and  I also have a greater appreciation of those who DO grow them.

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29 thoughts on “Growing Fava Beans

  1. Hi, Vickie – Nice to meet you at Grammy Dee’s Link Up. I love this post — especially your incredible honesty, and your positive outlook. Your camera was run over by your truck? That totally sounds like something that would happen to me. Thanks for the heads up on the difficulty of growing and preparing fava beans. I think that I will give them a miss this year. I look forward to reading future posts. Donna

    • Nice to meet you, Donna! Yeah, I don’t want to turn anyone away from growing fava (broad) beans if they like them, but I won’t be growing any more in the near future. I am sure a fava lover is going to read this post and curse me for saying this, but I tell the truth as it relates to me. No white wash here. 😉 Thank you for leaving a comment, Donna. I hope to hear from you again!

  2. Vickie-I grow them every year…..but not for the beans, which, as you learned are a pain. I grow them because they are a legume and fix nitrogen into the soil. I usually plant them in the fall and let them overwinter where I plan on planting my tomatoes in the spring. When they are done I just use a shovel to chop up the plants and I leave them on top for green manure! I love eating the beans but I don’t dry them. I eat them while they are green and tender. Rather then soak them, I bring the beans to a boil, pour off the water, and the skins come off real easy. Then I steam them a little longer, add butter and salt & pepper. YUM!

    • Thank you for all this great information, Kim. After more research, I found out that the skins easily slip off of the GREEN ones, not the dried ones! Well, I live and learn every day. What a great idea – to grow them to fix the nitrogen and then to just chop them back in! As you know, I am still trying to build my soil, so I will certainly copy-cat you. Plus, this will give me a chance to try the beans while they are green. 🙂 Thanks for commenting today. I hope to see you again soon!

    • Haha. You are such a crack-up, Maridy! The truth is, probably not. I am assuming (hoping) we will be too busy building our new house. I do plan to grow the basics – green beans, corn, squash and tomatoes, but beyond that, anything is possible!

  3. What a great post, and I can’t believe you are already harvesting things while I’m still buried under snow!!! Anyway, I know you can eat the shoots and leaves of the fava beans – check out the blog 66squarefeet – she grows fava beans for their shoots/leaves rather than the beans. She’s an amazing gardener, no doubt you can learn some cool stuff from her. She also has an incredible cookbook!

    • Good morning, Debbie! Actually, this was from our last growing season 😉 I have just recently been writing posts about last year’s garden while I have had the time. It is also time to reflect on last year’s garden and plan for this year, so I am narrowing down my choices for this year’s garden as I write these posts. Thank you so much for the recommendation to the new blog… can’t wait to read it!

    • LOL – I think that might be wise if you have a small garden and don’t especially like fava beans! However, after reading some comments, I am starting to re-think the whole situation! This is one of the perks of having a blog… I learn so much from other people! Thank you for your comment, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

  4. Live and learn, huh? I have heard of fava beans, but have never had them. That does sound like way to much work for such little results. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

    • Thank you, Jann, for hosting your wonderful blog hop! Through you I reach more readers, who give me more information, and sometimes change my mind! Now I wonder if I should try growing them again, but eating the beans as they are still green!

    • You are so right, Grammy Dee! After a day of letting the flavors meld, the hummus was actually pretty good! Thank you for commenting.

  5. Hello fellow gardener. I’ve learned to garden over the years by trial and error. Although the beans didn’t turn out the way you had hoped, I learned a lot. This is a great post I’m still wondering how you ran over your camera though.

    • The camera? Well…I was busy taking pictures with it and set it on our truck while I went inside our trailer for some reason or another. Of course, my husband didn’t know the camera was there when he got in the truck to turn it around. I came out to retrieve the camera so I could take a few more pictures, but it wasn’t where I had set it. My stomach turned upside down when I saw it flat as a pancake buried in the gravel. Totally my fault. I was able to get the chip out, but it had also been damaged. So, those are the sad facts. Learn my lesson, don’t put your camera on your truck 😉 Thank you Rhonda for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  6. Favas are really popular in Spain (they call them habas) and you can find the young beans in jars. The outer shell is still edible when they’re relatively immature but I like the color and creamy consistency of the beans inside. Hope you have a better experience with your next batch 🙂 There’s another type of broad bean sold in Spain called judias with an edible pod. They’re delicious!

    • Good morning, Lydia. I am re-thinking this whole thing. I think the whole experience went south when I decided to dry them, because I am hearing more and more people say that the green beans are the way to go. Perhaps I will try growing them again, afterall!

  7. I feel like this happened to me with several of the things we tried last year…we invested a lot of time end effort into it, but didn’t get a very big harvest. Oh well, hopefully this year will be more fruitful and I will NOT be trying fava beans! Thanks for sharing on the Waste Less Wednesday Blog Hop!

    • I think what I am learning from gardening is to keep an open mind! Over the last few years I have tried to grow vegetables I have never grown before, such as potatoes, sugar beets and long (chinese) beans. I didn’t expect much from the potatoes but got a surprisingly healthy harvest! But I was a little disappointed with the amount of chinese long beans I got because my mother’s plants almost buried her in beans! Now I am learning that I just prepared the fava beans in the wrong way and would probably enjoy the beans fresh, not dried. Who Knew? Obviously not me. 😉

  8. The plants look great! I can’t believe that is all that they produced. Hopefully you will have better luck this year.

    Happy Pink Saturday

  9. I like to try growing new stuff too (as long as it is something we eat). This year I am growing garbanzo beans. We’ll see how it goes!

  10. HI Vickie,
    I actually have never heard of these beans before, but its sounds like you could make a lot of recipes from them. It always frustrating when you put so much work into growing something and you don’t have much of a harvest. But it is all a learning experience. Thanks for sharing all your information. Pinning. Congratulations on being featured on #WasteLessWednesday Happy Spring

  11. Thanks so much for sharing this with Awesome Life Friday. I confess, I laughed, because this is pretty much how it goes for me every time I try to plant *anything*! Hope this year’s crop choices result in something more worth the effort!

    • Good evening, Lynda. So far, I think I am just going to stick with the things I know I can grow this year. We will be building our house, so I won’t have much time to spend on a “new” vegetable or grain. But you never know. I just might run across a strange packet of seeds that call to me!

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