University of Maryland Extension: Plant of the Week
Text by Bob Orazi
Photo by Jon Traunfeld
Want something to plant in early spring besides peas? Try fava or broad beans.
Fava bean is a cool season vegetable, germinating in 40-degree soil temperatures. Plant them as soon as you can work the soil. They grow best in the 60 to 65 degree range of early spring. If planted too late, they may fall to form pods.
In soil amended with organic matter, place seeds 1 inch deep at 4- to 6-inch intervals in rows 18 to 36 inches apart.
Being a legume with the capability of fixing atmospheric nitrogen, no fertilizer is necessary. Compost is the only nutrition they need.
Though grown primarily for the bean, the young upper leaves are also edible like spinach. Pods begin forming when plants reach 18 to 24 inches high. If temperatures get too hot, prune the top off to encourage pods to mature. Harvest pods when the beans inside are plump like a lima bean.
The variety Windsor works well in this area, taking only 76 days to mature. To follow with a second crop, choose a brassica. Do not plant another legume.
Fava beans are tasty, nutritious and a good source of fiber. They have been grown in Mediterranean and Eastern countries historically and are gaining popularity in the US, as evidenced by their presence at local farmers markets. Go online for many ways to prepare and cook this versatile bean.