(Vicia faba ssp. faba var. faba— Family Leguminosae)
Fava/faba bean, broad bean, fève, (British) horse bean, daffa bean, English bean, Windsor bean, grosse bohnen, field bean, tic, daffa bean
This is one of the most ancient of beans, with traces of it going back to the Bronze Age and the ruins of Troy.
Thought to have originated around the Mediterranean, the oldest remains of domesticated broad beans have been dated to 6800-6500 BCE. By the Iron Age, they had spread to Europe.
The Greeks thought that overindulgence dulled the senses, and Dioscorides wrote that they were hard to digest, causing “troublesome dreams”.
They may have been included in the origin of the term “bean feast”, of which they are a major part of an annual meal given by employers for their staff. In the vernacular, this has been changed to “beano”, which is also a trademark name for a product used to relieve the flatulence caused by eating them.
Fava beans remain the national dish of Egypt, which accompanies the Arabic saying “Beans have satisfied even the Pharoahs”. There are many gardeners’ folk tales relating to when they should be planted and how.
Botanically, the fava bean belongs to the vetches,
which explains the indigestible skin surrounding the inner seed and why it has never gained popularity outside its native region as it requires considerable cooking time to eliminate its toxic substances.
The pods are not eaten and only the large green, brownish, or red seeds which have long been used as an important source of protein. It is also extremely rich in carbohydrate, protein, and minerals.
It is one of the few beans to grow successfully in colder temperate climates and do well in Great Britain, parts of Canada, and the northern US states. In California, it is planted in the fall. Varieties are distinguished according to the colour of their flowers.
This bean is generally large, over an inch long, oval, and thicker at the bottom end resembling a baby lima.
It has a dark line where the ridge is split. Its colour is a tannish-pink when dried; but when fresh, it is a pale green.
Favas have a strong, bitter, earthy flavour and a granular texture. The younger the bean, the better the flavour, which is the sweetest and most tender at that stage.
This bean is labour-intensive as it needs to be shelled from the pod and the skin removed from each seed, made easier by first blanching them.
Those of Mediterranean descent often lack the enzyme that prevents a type of anemia (favism), which is triggered by eating many fava beans or continually inhaling their pollen.