I used to think of fava beans as a cover crop only and not as a food. People said they were good to eat, and I tried, but I found them to taste awful. Somewhere I ran across a short and vague reference to slipping them from their skins which lead me eventually to the fact that the outer skins are fairly inedible. You would think that out of all the mentions I read and heard about fava beans in conversations, books and seed catalogues that someone would have mentioned as much?!?! WTF? Anyway, they are really good after all.
To start from scratch, fava beans are a sizable plant that has been cultivated for geons for both food and soil improvement. It seems to be fairly common knowledge that a small percentage of people are deathly allergic to them, but I haven’t met one yet. Maybe most of them are dead. Favas are a relatively robust plant that I’ve seen outgrow me in height under really fertile conditions. The large pods contain large seeds that are edible. The plant is in the legume family and, like most legumes, it has a relationship with some specialized soil dwelling bacteria that colonize it’s roots forming small nodules. The plant provides a home for the bacteria and the bacteria returns the favor by fixing nitrogen out of the atmosphere which the plant then gets to use in it’s processes. I’m anthropomorphizing here. Honestly I don’t know exactly how the relationship plays out in the long run, but there seems to be a mutual benefit. Like many relationships though, there is probably some compromise along with the good times. Anyway, legumes are high in protein at least partially due to this relationship. That bacteria/plant relationship also makes favas a good cover crop as both the plant and the roots with their nodules are high in nitrogenous matter. They can produce a lot of bulky material for the compost pile as well, which is important if you use a lot of compost, as I do. They can also be turned under the soil if you dig your beds, which I don’t. Or, you can just cut or break them off at ground level leaving the nitrogen rich root nodules in the soil to decay gradually, which is the method that I favor. Read more »