The Forgotten Crop: Bringing Nutrition Back to The Garden

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This crop has been a nutritious staple for hundreds of years in the United States. It is time to bring this nutritious plant back into our gardens and into our kitchens.
Broad beans, also known as fava beans are quite possibly the oldest cultivated plants around. They have been steady staples in nearly every international cuisine for hundreds of years.

Fava beans are high in fiber and iron, and they are protein powerhouses, with 13 grams per cup of cooked beans. Fava beans work to lower cholesterol naturally and even stimulate sexual desire.

Planting

This cool-season crop grows best in temperatures ranging from 60 to 65 F, but it can also grow in temperatures as low as 40 F and as warm as 75 F. Sow fava beans in spring as soon as the soil can be worked for harvest before the weather gets too warm.These beans require 80 to 100 days to reach harvest.

Grow favas under full sun, in loose, well-drained soil that is rich with organic matter. Add aged compost to planting beds before planting. Fava beans prefer a soil pH that is between 6.0 to 6.8.

Sow seeds 1 inch deep and 4 to 5 inches apart. Space rows about 18 to 30 inches apart. Thin seedlings so that they stand 8 to 10 inches apart. In regions with short seasons, start fava beans indoors in peat pots and set them into the garden shortly after the last frost in spring.

Water your crop just before the soil dries out, but do not over water. It is important to keep the soil moist during flowering and pod formation. The beans will set up a mutual exchange with soil microorganisms called nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This helps them produce usable nitrogen.

Companion plants

Some companion plants that grow well with fava beans are potatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, celery, and summer savory. Do not plant fava beans with onion or garlic.

Diseases

Beans are susceptible to mosaic, blight, and anthracnose. You can cut down this susceptibility by planting disease-resistant varieties, keeping your garden clean, and by choosing not to handle the plants when they are wet. Be sure to remove and destroy infected plants so they can not spread disease to healthy plants. Soil-borne diseases can be reduced by changing the location of bean crops each year.

Harvest

Pick fava beans for fresh use like snap beans when the seeds are about the size of a pea. Fava beans are normally grown to maturity and used as shelled beans.

Storing

Unshelled broad beans will last in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Fava beans can also be frozen, canned, or dried. Dried shelled fava beans can be stored in a cool dry place for about 10 to 12 months.

Ariana Marisol is a contributing staff writer for REALfarmacy.com. She is an avid nature enthusiast, gardener, photographer, writer, hiker, dreamer, and lover of all things sustainable, wild, and free. Ariana strives to bring people closer to their true source, Mother Nature. She is currently finishing her last year at The Evergreen State College getting her undergraduate degree in Sustainable Design and Environmental Science. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

Photo Credit:
David Paleino/flickr

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