My kids are getting to the ages where they specialize in certain garden activities. The ten year old makes guacamole for the family, from harvesting all the ingredients to chopping and mashing them up. The eight year old enjoys potting up seedlings. And Reeve, the six year old, now grows all the fava beans.

Three wonders of favas

There are three wonderful aspects of growing fava beans in Southern California, and the first one is that a kindergartener can farm them. That’s how forgiving and indefatigable favas are.

In the fall of 2022, I first gave my daughter guidance on sowing fava beans.

Reeve sowing fava beans on November 13, 2022.

The crop was successful so for this year’s crop I just gave her the seeds and let her sow them as she thought best.

She sowed on February 1, 2023, and this is how they looked on February 28. She made the tag too.

I feared she had sown them too closely (only an inch or two apart) and not deeply enough (some weren’t even totally covered with dirt). But no, favas are unstoppable.

They grew up and flowered. Here on April 17.
Ready for harvest on May 10. Cilantro now flowering behind the fava bean plants and sunflowers growing in front of them.
Reeve’s first harvest on May 14.

Grow on rain in winter

Second, favas are wonderful because they can thrive on rainfall alone in an average winter. You sow the fava bean seeds in the fall or early winter, just after the rains have started. In the spring, as our rains are fading out, the plants are large and swelling pods for harvest.

Precisely, we have sown our past two fava crops on November 13, 2022 and on February 1, 2024. I think that October is about the earliest favas should be sown in Southern California, and early February is about the latest.

Fava bean seeds forever

Third, once you grow fava beans you should never need to buy seeds or plants again. You can let some beans from your current crop dry and use them for next year’s crop, ad infinitum.

The favas we are currently growing came from seeds that a friend gave me a few years ago.

Challenge of fava beans?

As a garden crop in Southern California, fava beans couldn’t be easier. In addition to the advantages noted above, I’ve never seen a pest or disease on the plants.

For me, the challenge is now using our harvest in new ways. The leaves and flowers of fava bean plants are edible. I’ve eaten a few but should make better use of those parts of the plant.

Fava flowers are white and black.

We have eaten the beans young and fresh, right from the pod. But mostly, we eat the slightly older, fatter beans by blanching them to remove the outer jacket and then warming the green beans with butter, lemon juice, and a dash of salt.

Once plump, you want to remove the outer jacket/coat and eat the green bean that’s inside.

Also, we make soups with the mature, dry beans.

Next up, a friend who grew up in the Middle East suggested we try ful, or foul, which is a kind of sauce or dip made with favas to be eaten with pita bread. I look forward to trying that with this year’s harvest.

Fava as cover crop

Some grow fava beans not to be eaten but rather to enrich the soil because the plants grow big and can be used to incorporate a lot of plant material into the soil, and fava plants also “fix” nitrogen.

You can read more about how this nitrogen fixation works and what you can get out of favas as a cover crop in this good article from New Mexico State University.

As it is spring, it is time to harvest favas in Southern California; it is not time to plant. So I’ll put it on my calendar to remind you of favas this fall when it is time again to plant them. Until then . . .

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