Fava Beans and Other Cover Crops

Crop rotation is a very important aspect of a healthy garden. If you plant the same types of plants in the same space year after year, you will deplete the soil and provide a breeding ground for plant diseases and pests. Different types of plants have different rotational needs, for example members of the garlic and onion family should only be planted in the same ground once in 4-5 years, while cole plants about once in 3 years. It is wise to make a rotation scheme for your garden depending on what is necessary for the plants you grow. Crop rotations do not necessarily happen on an annual basis, for example you may follow garlic which is harvested in June or July, with a plant like turnips that can be planted in August and harvested a few months later.

In between other crop rotations, many people plant cover crops. A cover crop is one that is not necessarily intended to be grown for food, but rather the primary purpose of it is to improve the ground and keep it covered. Ground that is unused for too long will erode and accumulate weeds, and planting a cover crop can avoid this. One particularly useful type of cover crop is the family of leguminous nitrogen fixing plants. As well as loosening and improving the workability of the soil, these plants will take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the ground, leaving the ground richer in nutrients than before the plant was grown. Often cover crops are turned into the ground by digging or with a garden tiller after they are grown, leaving the ground richer in organic material.

Some example of common cover crops include winter rye, different types of clover, field peas, beans, yellow mustard, buckwheat, phacealia (a type of flower), as well as many other plants.

One of my favorite cover crops is fava beans. Fava beans have one of the highest rates of nitrogen fixing of any cover crop. They also also produce one of the highest rates of compostable organic material per square meter. They will loosen even highly compacted heavy clay soil. They are also very tasty to eat, both as a fresh shelled bean and as a dry soup bean. They are an excellent substitute for garbanzo beans when making hummus.

Quite a few fava bean seeds are needed to plant a relatively small area. To plant an area of 50m2 (500ft2), you will need between 0.5-3Kg (1-7 lbs), depending on how densely you plant the seeds. Since a typical packet only contains 30-60 seeds, you will need quite a few packets of seeds to plant an area like this. Most people, including farmers that grow them, normally get around this problem by saving their own seeds. It is normally too expensive to purchase seeds for growing every year. Seeds are saved from the plants after the plants mature and the pods turn black. Fava beans can cross pollinate, so when saving seeds only grow one variety at a time or space different varieties far apart.

Fava bean seeds don’t keep well. Purchased seeds are normally treated, which significantly improves their germination rates. If you save your own fava bean seeds you will need to count on low germination rates, and increase planting density accordingly. Planting densities given here assume germination rates typical of commercial seeds, and you will need to increase these densities according to your own experiences with the seeds you save and grow yourself. When storing fava beans it is important to keep them in an open container. If you have problems with rodents eating the seeds in storage, try glass jars with holes poked in metal lids, or try constructing your own containers made of wire screens. Fava bean seeds also freeze well, and can be stored in a freezer after they have been completely dried. Seeds that become moldy or develop large black spots in storage should be discarded.

As a food crop, fava beans are not one of the most productive. A relatively large area needs to be planted for a modest harvest. In addition, preparing fresh fava beans can be a lot of work as most people will remove the skins of the seeds before eating. In general, it’s more useful to think of fava beans primarily as a cover crop, with the added benefit of being able to provide a little food as well. In terms of food harvest, the smaller seeded varieties are better than the large seeded varieties.

Fava beans can be grown in a few different ways. They can be planted densely, then turned into the ground when they are young. In this case they are usually planted in double rows (two parallel rows 2.5 cm (1 inch) apart). These double rows are spaced 30cm (1 foot apart), and the seeds within the rows are spaced 15cm (6 inches) apart. They should be turned under before they get too woody, and while they can still decompose easily.

When growing fava beans for seed or food, they should be planted in single rows 30cm (1 foot) apart, and seed spacing should be 15cm (6 inches). In this case the plants will be too woody to simply turn into the ground, and will have to be collected for composting.

Fava beans are cool weather crops, and should be planted as early in the spring as possible. They can go into the ground as soon as it has thawed enough to dig. In some places fava beans can be planted in the fall and overwinter. Different varieties will survive different temperature extremes, but typically will survive to -10C (about 15F). Fava beans do not compete well with weeds, and one very good way to address the problem of weeds is to grow them together with another leguminous nitrogen fixing cover crop to smother the weeds. White clover is an excellent choice here, but other cover crops will probably also work well.

All leguminous nitrogen fixing crops depend on a naturally occurring bacteria in the soil for fixing nitrogen. Once any sort of bean or pea is grown, the bacteria stays in the ground for a very long time, and it is not an issue. If it has been a very long time since a nitrogen fixing plant has been grown in a particular spot, the bacteria will eventually establish itself there after planting something like fava beans, but it will take a long time. In the meantime the fava beans will grow very slowly and will be weak. Commercial inoculants can be purchased to treat the seeds at the time of planting. These can be a considerable help in establishing this bacteria.

269 thoughts on “Fava Beans and Other Cover Crops”

  1. When you say fava beans can be frozen….does that apply to the ones you wish to use for seed?

  2. Thanks for the comment! Yes, fava bean seeds can easily be frozen. In January, I posted about this: Storing Seeds

    I would suggest drying the seeds as much as possible before freezing them. However, fava beans are such a cold hardy crop, both plants and seeds, even if the seeds are not completely dry they will still probably survive freezing without problems.

    If you are unsure they will survive freezing, you could freeze a small number of them for a few weeks, then germination test them by putting them between layers of wet paper towels for 7-10 days.

  3. Hi all –
    I’ve planted fava beans as a cover crop – they’re maybe 4 inches tall now, and I think I need to turn them over, but don’t know how. A hand tiller? A pitchfork? I’m just beginning to do serious gardening, and have NO clue!
    Thanks much!

  4. Hi Phila, Yes, 4 inches is a good time to turn them under. The tool you use to turn them under probably mostly depends on how big of an area you have planted. If it is a small area, then a hand tool is probably more appropriate. Personally I would use a digging fork, which is a tool similar to a pitchfork, but is sturdier and designed for digging in the ground. The basic idea is to dig up the ground one fork- or shovelfull at a time and flip it over. Most of the fava bean plants should end up underground, but it’s not necessary to cover all of them.

    If you have an area that is not practical to do by hand, then you need to use something like a garden tiller. Keep in mind it will be a lot of trouble to get and transport one to the garden, as well as get it running. The basic idea with this is to churn the ground up, and mix everything together.

    You should wait about a month before planting anything after turning the beans under.

  5. I live in Portsmouth, VA and plan to plant fava beans on 5/4 Any suggestions??



  6. Hi Nancy — Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry, I’ve been away for a few days. Fava beans are a cool weather crop, and they may not survive the heat of your summer, especially being planted so late. Normally fava beans are planted very early spring, as soon as the ground can be dug. Anyway, good luck. I hope this helps.

  7. I have planted Fava Beans on my terrace here in NYC and they’re growing well, they’re tall and producing lots of green pods. When is the best time to harvest them?

  8. Hi Peter,

    I assume you mean harvest them for food. You should wait until the pods are plump. The skin on most fava bean varieties will also turn a little bit shiny when they are mature.

    The timing for harvest is not too critical. If you harvest them a bit early, they will only be a little small. If you harvest them a bit late, they will be a little tough. If you aren’t sure, it’s okay to wait a few days, they don’t suddenly go bad.

    If you are saving seeds from the plants, you should wait until the pods turn black.

    Good Luck!

  9. Hi there. I am wondering about harvesting fava beans for eating. When you harvest them when they are plump and green, do you need to cook them or can you eat them fresh right out of the pod? And if you want to have dry fava beans for eating, I am assuming you harvest them once the pods are black. Is this right?

    Thanks for the help!

  10. Hi Becky,

    I\’m sorry for the slow reply, I\’ve been out of town. I suggest cooking the fava beans first. My favorite and maybe the simplest way is to saute them together with a bit of garlic in some olive oil. Alternatively you can steam them.

    Many people prefer to remove the skins before eating, because they are a little tough. To do this, blanch for a minute or two in water or steam and place in cold water. The skins can then be slipped off. It\’s really a lot of work to remove the skins, and I personally don\’t mind them, they are just a little chewy.

    Yes, if you are saving the dried seeds to eat, harvest after the pods turn black. Don\’t let them sit on the plants too long, or they will start to sprout. If they seem dirty or moldy, try rinsing with a dilute bleach solution before drying. Make sure to store them in an open container, and in an airy place for several months until they are completely dry, or they will spoil and mold. After they are dry, freezing them for a few days will pasturize them, and prepare them better for long term storage.

  11. I grow fava beans here in Santa Fe but sometimes end up with a black fungal type of something on the pods. Do you know what this is? Do you have any suggestions or treatments for dealing with this? Once the pods are black-ish, they fruit becomes inedible.

    Thanks much!

  12. Hi Joa,

    When they mature, the pods turn black. Is this what you are seeing? They often get slimy and disgusting, but really this is perfectly normal. After they turn black, you can save the fava beans as seeds, and replant them next year.

    Once they turn black, they dry out and the flavor changes, but you can then use them as a soup bean or make fava bean humus out of them! Just don’t store them in a closed container, or they will get moldy.  Store them in an open paper bag instead.

    Anyway, I hope this helps. If this isn’t what’s going on with your beans, I’m afraid I don’t know what the problem is.

  13. Greetings, Patrick, and thanks so much for your help!

    I planted favas in an old wine barrel and the plants grew tall and were very productive. I’ve harvested the beans and am wondering what to do with the plants. Will they produce again next year or should I take them out and plant something else in there? If I want to leave them there, do I cut them back to a certain height?

    Again, my thanks.

  14. Hi Lori!

    Once the fava bean plants have produced for the year they are finished and won’t grow back. If you leave them in the barrel they will just wither and die.

    Don’t throw away the dirt! Fava beans are a green manure plant, and make the dirt they grow in very rich. If nothing else, be sure to put it in your compost, but it is very suitable for just planting something else in.

    It’s probably too late for this year, but if you grow fava beans again, it is very easy to save seeds for planting the following year. Just let a few of the pods fully mature on the plant and turn black, then save the dried out beans. Be sure to store the fava bean seeds in paper or in the open air, they will rot if stored in an airtight container.

  15. It looks like I may need to harvest my fava beans before the pods have turned black. The beans do look fairly mature, but I wonder if they will be viable for planting next year. Any thoughts?

  16. Hi Brad,

    The more mature they are the better. If you want to know if the seeds are viable, you could take a couple and place them between wet paper towels for a week or two and see if they sprout. If they don’t sprout, you can soak them in water overnight then use them like a bean in soup or make fava bean humus from them.

    If the pods aren’t at least a little black, they probably aren’t mature enough.

  17. Hi Nancy,

    It’s very strange you don’t have pods yet.

    Have you cut the tops of the plants off yet? I think I forgot to mention this in the article above, but this is normally done after the plant has put out about 2 or 3 rounds of flowers, to keep it from forming unnecessary flowers and put it’s energy into the pods.

    Good Luck!

  18. Hi. My favas were planted a few months ago and are over 3 feet tall and have been covered with flowers for weeks. But I’m not finding any pods. We’re in a cool summer area by the coast but it’s been a beautiful sunny warm spring. Is there anything I can give do to encourage them? We have plenty of bugs flying about.

  19. Thank you very much! I had no idea I was supposed to do that. I’ll do it right away.
    I understand you can cook them like spinach. This should be interesting.

  20. I was told by someone that some people are allergic to the skin of the fava bean and that is why it is necessary to remove it. Do you know if that is true? I am about to harvest my first crop and plan to sell it at Farmer’s Markets so I want to make sure it is a safe food to eat.
    Thanks for the excellent article.

  21. Hi Michele,

    There is a sex-linked inherited condition called favism, and fava beans can trigger a dangerous reaction in people who have it. It is a rare condition, affecting mostly males of Mediterranean or African decent.

    I have never heard anything about the skins playing a special role in this condition but since removing them is usually done when the beans are cooked it would be difficult for you to do this before selling them.

    I would suspect people who have this condition would probably be aware of it along the lines of someone with a nut allergy would know they have to avoid nuts, but really I’m no expert on the matter. Maybe you want to place a sign next to them warning your customers of the condition?

    I hope this helps. Good luck at the Farmer’s Markets.

  22. My fava beans are getting black leaves. What is causing this. Could it be too much water. How often should I water. Thanks.


  23. Hi JoAnn,

    You don’t say where you are, so I don’t know for sure, but I think you are in Massachusetts.

    If this is the case, it is the wrong time of year to be growing fava beans. They are a cool weather crop, need to be planted in early spring and mature in June or early July. I think the only thing you can do is try again next year.

    As far as watering goes, as long as the plants are not sitting in a puddle of water, they should be okay and you probably can’t give them too much. Because they normally grow in the early spring, watering isn’t usually too much of an issue because the weather is not yet hot and dry. Of course in dry weather you may need to give them some water.

    I hope this helps!

  24. Hi all-

    We grew fava beans primarily as a cover/placeholder crop, but they ended up bearing a great amount of beans. They had flowers for at least a month and like Nancy, we thought they wouldn’t bear, but it’s almost as if the pods showed up overnight — suddenly there were tons of pods! They self seeded fantastically for a fall crop, too. We planted in “winter”, or what passes for it in northern California, had beans in April, May, June, and then new plants sprouting in August. All we had to do was poke the fallen beans a bit further into the ground!

    A question about drying the beans: we left a bunch on the plant to dry/turn black, which they did, but the beans were very wrinkly when we harvested the nearly dry pods. Is this normal? Did we wait too long to harvest them? It’s hot and not humid here, so I thought they would dry better than they did.

    Thanks a bunch.

  25. Hi Jenny,

    Many commercial (common) varieties of fava beans are ‘all at once’ types, meaning they are bred for mechanical harvesting and so all the beans need to be ripe at the same time. This may be why it seemed you got lots of beans all at once.

    I think wrinkly seeds are probably okay, it seems to me my mine are usually this way at least a bit. Dry beans that sprout, develop black spots or mold are usually an indication something has gone wrong. I think, within reason, you almost can’t wait too long to harvest them.

  26. Hi. I’m interested in finding out about sprouting fava beans to eat: in a jar? between two papers towels as mentioned (cumbersome for doing a lot)?? And are they good to eat sprouted?

    Thanks. It was really interesting and informative reading all the messages. Can’t wait to grow them in the Spring, especially after the wonderful scarlet runner bean plants from last summer.


  27. Hi Sunrose,

    Thanks for joining in on the discussion here, and great question! I don’t really know the answer, and if you try it and learn something, I hope you come back and let us all know. I think it’s worth a try.

    I have sprouted mung beans in a jar, and I can’t really see any reason why fava beans shouldn’t work the same way. It may be difficult to remove the leftover pieces of seed after sprouting them, and these probably won’t taste good if you just leave them.

    Fava beans are almost always cooked before eating them, and I suspect fava bean sprouts may not taste good raw if this is what you were thinking about.

  28. Hello,
    I will be planting Fava seeds for the 1st time in central NY, zone 5, as soon as the ground thaws ( end of March ). My question is can I make a second planting later to get 2 separate harvest for my area?

    Thank you,

  29. Hi Jerry,

    Probably not, but it might be worth a try. I suggest trying the second planting in mid to late August.

    Fava beans really love cold weather, but grow very slowly once the temperature gets close to freezing. I suspect towards the end of your second planting winter will set in and they’ll all but stop growing. The problem is if you plant them any earlier, the heat of the summer will probably be too much for them.

    Good luck!

  30. Hi! I have a bag of dried fava beans I got a long time ago. They don’t look too good for eating, so I thought I’d try planting them to see what they do. I live near Portland, Oregon and we rarely get frost in March. Would this be too early to plant them? Woudl it be better to start them inside or on the porch (they will be in a container since we live in an apartment). Thanks for you informative site!

  31. Hi Mandy,

    It’s almost never too early to plant fava beans, they can survive temperatures down to about 15F. In fact they thrive in cold weather.

    The bad news is that fava bean seeds have a very short shelf life, rarely more than a year. If they are older than this, the chances of them germinating and growing is very small.

    If you decide to plant them anyway, best of luck. Thanks for stopping by!

  32. Inquiry:

    My favas are about 2 months old. Someone planted them for me as a cover crop. Is it a good time to til them under? I read to leave them a month after turning under before planting, but I would like to plant some greens very soon. There are already 6 lettuce sharing the bed with the favas. What if I planted in a week or two after turning under. Also, I composted some in the bed…anyway the soil could get over nitrogenated?

  33. Hi Soneile,

    It’s not a good idea to turn them under so close to planting, they should be given a chance to decompose a bit first. Also if they are 2 months old, perhaps they are a little hard and woody now? Normally fava beans should be turned under when they are still pretty small and soft.

    I suggest just pulling the fava bean plants out and adding them to the compost. If you have been adding finished compost to the bed anyway, that’s pretty much the same benefit you would have gotten by turning the favas under.

    I doubt fava beans and compost could cause the ground to be too nitrogen rich, this usually only happens when you add fresh manure.

    I hope this answers your questions, if not please let me know.

    Good luck with the lettuce!

  34. Hello everyone,

    I went to the Farmer’s Market at almost the last minute that it was open and the guy at the booth gave me a TON of Fava Beans in their pods, even though I only needed a little.

    Can you suggest a good way to preserve them? Should I dry them or cook them and freeze them or freeze them in the pods or shell them first then freeze them? I’m at a loss…


  35. Hi Tracy,

    What a great question, I wonder why no one else mentioned it.

    Fava beans need to be cooked before they can be frozen. The standard way would be to blanch (immerse in boiling water) for about a minute or two, but any cooking method like frying in a little olive oil and garlic should work well too.

    After cooking they should freeze well, and keep a long time.

  36. I have a small backyard herb & vegetable garden in Dallas, TX and have planted fava beans for the nitrogen they produce and as a food crop. How wide of an area does each plant benefit the soil with nitrogen and how long do they produce it? I planted mine in the fall in spaces where I thought they wouldn’t be in the way of my spring plants, but they have gotten way bigger than last year’s crop. Can I relocate them or put them in pots until they stop producing beans?

    Thanks a bunch!

  37. Hi Karen,

    Beans don’t usually transplant very well. I know it’s often possible to start fava beans indoors and transplant them, but I wouldn’t expect it to work to dig them out of the garden for transplant. Of course if the alternative is to throw them away, perhaps it can’t hurt to try.

    Leguminous plants like fava beans fix nitrogen into the soil by means of nodules on their roots. Next time you dig some up, have a look at the roots and you will see small white balls — these are the nodules. Therefore they will fix nitrogen as far as their roots reach, and I would expect this to be about a foot (30cm) in all directions. They fix nitrogen for the entire life of the plant except for the first few weeks, because the nodules haven’t had a chance to form.

    Nitrogen fixing plants tend to fix nitrogen according to their needs, and are more active in nitrogen poor ground. For this reason, if you need to pull your plants out early, especially if the plants are big, I would expect that a lot of nitrogen fixing would already have taken place and you would still end up with most of the benefits.

  38. Hi, I’m an ex-pat Brit living in Georgia, Zone 8 just north of Columbus. I love Broad (fava) Beans to eat. This winter I planted seeds in a two Self watering boxes, sowing them November 24th 2007, they grew slowly all winter and are now 2 1/2ft high (I’m going to pinch out the tops) and I have just harvested my first beans. I like them steamed and then into a white sauce.Brits don’t peel them, favorite dish in the U.K.

  39. Hi Jean,

    I’m an expat yankee living in Holland. I would think fava beans would be a challenge in Georgia because of the hot weather. I guess you must just have to grow them through the winter.

    I don’t usually peel them either. My favorite way to serve them is sauted in a little olive oil with some garlic.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving the comment!

  40. For a newbie gardener who needs all the details explained:

    When pulling the plants at the end of their time, do I want to leave the roots so that the nitrogen fixing nodules stay in the ground? Should I cut the plants at ground level and compost the tops? I prefer to do no-dig gardening.

    I have never worked with fresh favas — I assume I have to shell them before I cook them? Blanch then shell?

    Thanks for your attention.

  41. Hi Marien,

    The ground where you grew the fava beans will be full of the important nitrogen fixing bacteria after your beans are finished, with or without leaving the nodules in the ground. It’s just not important. When I clear my plants, I just walk through and pull them up with a gentle tug. They make the ground loose, and and have weak roots, so they come up very easily. Removing the old plants will probably be a 5 or 10 minute task, and is nothing you have to take special care with. Cutting them at ground level is also an option.

    No, you probably don’t want to blanch them before shelling them. Just shell them fresh.

    Fava beans have a somewhat tough skin on them, that most people remove before eating. If you want to remove the skins, blanch the beans first to loosen them. I personally like the skin, and don’t bother to remove it.

  42. I leave in N. California, Bay Area. I am fairly experienced with flowers, herbs and tomatoes but am totally new to bean growing.
    I intend to plant Fava in the fall, after my tomatoes are all gone, for spring 2009 food crop.
    Do they need a lot of support? What kind: poles, trellis, etc.?
    Thank you very much,

  43. Hi Tanya,

    Fava beans don’t need any support. They grow about waist high, and have a very sturdy stem.

    In a windy area, it can be helpful to grow them in a block rather than a row, so they support each other a bit, but this is not normally necessary.

    A fall planting in the Bay Area for a spring crop should work really well. For a food crop, keep in mind it will be late spring or early summer, meaning there won’t be a lot of time to plant anything else in that spot as a summer crop.

  44. I am watching a friend’s place in Santa Monica, CA and she has a fava bean plant. They seems really healthy about 1 month ago. The whole plant is turning black. I brought a picture to a locale nursery and a guy there says after they mature they turn black and die. Is it the pod or the whole plant that does this and is it true? If it is true as they turn black do you take them out of the ground. Yes I am a newbee in gardening. I do have a few plants of my own that require water and I have managed to keep them alive for an impressing amount of time. I always say beginers luck.

    Thank you! Also I would be happy to email the picture if that would help.

  45. Hi Mina,

    The pods certainly turn black when the seeds inside mature, and this is normal. With the variety of fava bean I grow, the whole plant doesn’t usually turn black, but maybe for some it does — I don’t really know.

    If the pods and plants are black, you may as well pull them out, they probably won’t grow anymore.

    The beans in the pods are almost certainly beyond the point where you would eat them as fresh, but you can soak them overnight and cook them like dried beans. You could make soup, or I have heard great things about fava bean hummus, but I haven’t tried it myself.

    You could also replant the beans. In your climate you can probably grow fava beans year round. If you wanted, you could replant them in the same spot they are now, with the plants spaced about 1 foot apart.

  46. Someone asked about sprouting fava beans. I just did. I used the usual method of putting them in mason jars covered by cheesecloth and rinsing 3 times a day and placing them upside down. The evening of the third day yielded sprouts about the length, some a bit longer, than the bean itself.

    They came out quite well, though I’ve read they are not good to eat raw, even when sprouted. So I’m boiling the sprouted beans to make foul (fava bean dip–made just like hummus, but sans tahini).

    As with any sprouted bean, the cooking time is greatly reduced. Half hour is quite sufficient, as opposed to 2-3 for regular dried beans. As for removing the skins, I never bother. Any skins that come off while cooking and float to the top I remove, but the rest I just leave on.

  47. Hi Patrick. I’m new to fava beanology and to computers as well, so it was a thrill to actually find a fava bean website plus all of the very useful comments. I hereby join in with my questions.

    Not knowing when to do Anything regarding favas, except for planting in cool weather (around Jan./Feb. for BC Canada), I’ve merrily watered them throughout our cold spring and finally hot summer. I just now collected one pod because it was Huge (10″ long) from the bottom of a plant. The ones higher up are smaller. The beans are soft and pale green and about the size of a small cherry. Are they ready to eat? I’ll proceed with the eating part of it according to all of your good advice on this website.

    Looking forward to the enriched soil and very nutricious beans I’ve now been blessed with.


  48. I love favas and have since I lived in Italy where they are a staple. Now living in Interior Alaska, where summer days are relatively hot (today was 80-85F depending on the location)and nights are cool (tonight should be 45-60F), I still grown them.

    For many years I grew them in a north facing garden at ground level where they grew well in the cool soil despite the warm June, July and August daily weather. Last year for the first time I tried growing them in containers on a south facing upper deck, some in the shade and others in full sun. They all did fairly well, none noticably better than others, and provided me with a small but precious harvest.

    This year I have planted them in the same containers and they have all looked good … dark green and about 2 feet tall so far. It has been a particularly cool and wet summer. Now the leaves on the plants in one of the containers are turning yellow. Knowing that they do better in nitrogen poor soil (after reading your comments … thanks!), I realized that I should not have planted them in the same containers.

    What do I do now? Is there a fertilizer that will help? Even if I had not made this mistake, what fertilizer should be used?

    Thanks! Patty

  49. Angela:

    There are two kinds of fava beans, those that give their harvest all at once (usually commercial varieties) and those that give a harvest over a period of time (usually heirloom varieties).

    Judging by your comment, you probably have the type that gives a harvest over a period of time. In this case, it sounds like the ones you picked are ready and they others need to stay on the plant a little longer. When they are ready, they will be pretty plump in the pod. If you are still unsure, you might go to a farmers market and compare what they sell with what you have.


    While it’s true that fava beans will probably do a little better in nitrogen poor soil, because they make their own nitrogen, they should also do okay with more nitrogen too. I think it’s more likely there is some kind of plant disease in your soil, perhaps carried over from last year. If this is a problem in just one pot, I suggest keeping this pot away from the others so the problem doesn’t spread.

    Is the problem ‘chocolate spot’? This is where brown spots develop on the plants. If so, this is a very deadly fava bean disease that spreads very quickly and is probably unrelated to your reusing the potting soil. In this case, you may as well wait and hope for the best, but you probably won’t get any harvest this year.

    With annual plants like most vegetables, it’s always a little bit of a risk to reuse the soil for the same plant two years in a row because of the risk of plant diseases. It’s true both in the garden and in pots.

    Fava beans almost never need any fertilizer, because they make their own by fixing nitrogen from the air. I would suggest not using any fertilizer at all. Fava beans do appreciate organic material, like compost, so for example mixing up to about 50% of this with the potting soil might help.

  50. I grew up in Hong Kong seeing food stores selling broad (fava) beens in basins with half inch sprouts with shells on. My mom cooked them with Chinese salted/preserved mustard greens with small pieces of slivered beef. Of course, broad been is used in high school biology labs along with maize (corn). I now live in Louisiaa and picked up a pound of fresh fava beens from a road side vege stand (by surprise, first time seen them here) in February. Didn’t have a chance to cook them. Half way rotted. Shelled them and they (75+) survived and sprouted in the top shelf of the refrigerator in a bowl after 4 months!! Planted all of them in Jiffy cups, 4 inch pots and a 5 gallon pot. All are growing well. Hope the heat won’t kill them. After reading all above notes, I will move them to shades ASAP. Also, fava beans deep fried crispy then dusted with salt is a common Hong Kong snack. Furthermore, when I visited YangZhou in China in June 2007, many houses were drying fava beans in front of the door when the sun was out.

    Thanks for your above info. Enjoyed reading them.

  51. I am a zone 5. I planted fava beans because I love them. I planted in May/June with my other bean plants. They grew and were beautiful with purple flowers, but the flowers turned black and did not turn into beans. Now, in late August, I found a few mature beans hidden under plants that had fallen over somewhat. What can I do to grow these next year…what was my mistake?

  52. Hi. I live in Madagascar and my garden soil is very depleted. In March and April of this year, I planted 12 pounds of “Aguadulce Morocco” seeds. This was during winter in the southern hemisphere. It’s now late August and I am harvesting. Some of the plants did very nicely, others did nothing. This was in adjacent beds with apparently the same amount of sun and water and the same soil. Some also were infested with some type of bug that leaves a black slime on the stems, leaves and flowers. Others did not – despite being in the same bed with the infected plants. Any thoughts on any of this?

    What I’m wondering now is can I replant the beans I’ve just harvested as it is early spring here?


  53. Am I able to replant beans that have not been dried? I’m in the southern hemisphere and am just now harvesting a crop that partially overwintered.

  54. Philip: Thanks for the comment!

    Bette: It’s hard to know for sure what the problem is over the Internet. Fava beans are cold weather plants, and can’t tolerate summer heat. It’s possible you planted them too late. If it’s possible to dig the ground, I would suggest planting in February. Otherwise, plant when the ground is soft enough. Fava beans are cold tolerant down to about -10C/15F.

    If planting too late wasn’t the problem, then I would suspect a problem with the variety you are using. Many people don’t realize if they purchase a packet of seeds from a hardware store or other random place, they’ve probably been grown in some far away place like China. It’s better to use locally grown seeds if possible, or at least seeds grown domestically, preferable from a reputable place, as they are more likely suited to your climate. You may want to try growing a couple of varieties next to each other, and see which one does best.

    Finally, be sure not to use fertilizer, as fava beans fix nitrogen and don’t need it. Too much fertilizer could cause the problem you describe.

    Robert: Wow, Madagascar. Greetings from Amsterdam, Netherlands! I really hope you visit again and leave more comments, as I would love to learn about farming and gardening where you are.

    As for the fava beans. I’ve never heard of Aquadulce Morocco, and there is a small chance they are an F1 variety and therefore not suitable for seed saving. Do you know for sure they are not an F1? Most fava beans are not F1s, so this is probably not an issue, but I don’t know for sure.

    But yes, if they are not F1s and the seed has not started sprouting yet, it should be no problem to replant them now.

    I don’t know of an insect that likes fava beans and leaves a black slime. Here we have aphids (black fly) and they leave a sticky substance behind, but it’s not black. If you are growing them organically, you might find whatever insect this is has a natural predator, which will become established and the problem will go away. That’s what usually happens with the aphids here, which get eaten by spiders or ladybugs after a few weeks.

    As far as some plants not doing anything, this may be an issue with genetics. Since no seeds will be produced from them, and you are saving your own seeds, the problem should start to go away within a generation or two as they fall out of the gene pool. Be sure to save seeds from the healthiest and strongest plants, if you’re able to.

    Good luck everyone!

  55. Robert: If they’re F1 they will be genetically unstable, and every plant will be different. They will still probably improve the soil, but they probably won’t be very healthy themselves.

  56. I uprooted my fava beans near the end of August in the central coast region of California. The fava bean plants have been black for quite a while. The beans are large and dry. I intended to plant them in September for a Fall crop. My question is about a small percentage of these seeds which look like they already sprouted while still in the pod and the sprout dried out. Will these beans be useless for replanting? Also, am I better off burying the dried plant in the soil or tossing them into the compost bin?

  57. Hi Gary,

    Fava beans do sometimes sprout in the pod, and I wouldn’t suggest trying to plant these if they have dried out or withered at all. I don’t think these will grow. If any of them are still moist and look like they are still alive and growing, you may be able to carefully plant these.

    I suggest composting the dried plants. The plants can be turned under, but this is normally done when the plants are very young and long before any pods have formed. Otherwise the plants are too woody, and take too long to break down in the soil.

  58. Hi, I live in Northern California and want to plant favas as a cover crop. How much sun do they need, and will they be ok if I plant them soon, i.e. while it is still pretty warm in the afternoons/ 80-ish? Thanks in advance

  59. Hi Amron,

    The beans probably need at least some direct sunlight, for at least several hours a day. Of course in the winter it will get darker, but what’s important is if you avoid growing them in the shade of a tree or building.

    I think now is an okay time to start them in northern California.

    If you are in the Bay Area, you can probably grow them almost year round. The same goes if you are in the mountains. If you are in a valley, they almost certainly won’t tolerate the mid summer heat, but as long as you avoid the hottest months you can probably grow them almost year round.

  60. hey,

    i have to do a bean plant for my science project. There is some fungus growing on my Fava bean. I removed the bean but i want to know why that happened? can u please tell me.

  61. Hi Alisha,

    I’m not sure exactly what you mean, because I can’t look at it.

    If you put the bean in the dirt, and instead of a plant fungus grew, it’s probably because the bean you tried to grow is too old. Fava bean seeds are only good for 1 year, and then they don’t grow anymore. Perhaps if you try again with a fresher seed it will grow.

  62. Last week we had a very unusual hailstorm here in Madagascar. This was perhaps ten days before my large crop of favas was to come in. Now the pods are splitting open long before they dry and turn black. Any advice for what should be done? Pick them immature and dry or leave them and see what happens?

  63. Hi Robert,

    I’ve never seen anything like this before, so I’m not really sure.

    Ten days is not a long time, so they must be almost mature. If you are going to replant them, the longer they stay on the plants to mature the better, I think even if the pods a splitting open.

    I think if you are going to eat them, it shouldn’t matter if they are a little immature but it might effect the cosmetics of the beans and make them harder to sell.

    Just a guess here! I would say those beans you plan to regrow should stay on the plant as long as possible, but you should watch them carefully for problems like mould or falling out of the pods onto the ground. It may not matter the pods have started to open.

    If you are somehow going to process the dried beans, like cooking or canning them, I suggest harvesting those now. If you let these dry they may turn black and you can proceed as usual? I’m not sure about this.

    It sounds like it worked saving your own seeds and regrowing them! I’m glad at least that worked out.

  64. Yes, it’s for replanting and, yes, a lot of the beans are falling out of the split pods – so we’ll see what happens.

  65. This is my first go round with Fava’s. I’ve innoculated and planted and am waiting for germination. Thanks for all the advice. I am curious to see how they do in the middle of a Mojave Desert ancient caliche-lined dry lake bed. Should be a big help in a new bed!!

  66. Hi i am doing a fava bean project for school. I would like to the best thing to water them with.
    Ex: tap water miracle grow, bottled water ect
    Please help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  67. Hi Jacob,

    Sorry for the slow reply.

    Fava beans are great fun to grow. They don’t need anything extra added to the water, they are a special plant that makes it’s own fertilizer. It’s better to use water that’s as pure and clean as possible.

    If you want to try something a little different from your classmates, try collecting rainwater and using this!

  68. Hi, I’m growing fava’s as a food crop for the first time. I live in a very temperate area, and are growing them as a fall crop. My plants are gorgeous green specimens and they are full of blossoms. The problem is, none of the blossoms are setting. After 2 months of continual bloom I have yet to see a single pod. The romanos planted in the plot immediately adjacent to them are doing fabulously…full of pods!


  69. Hi Toni,

    It’s better if you cut the tops off the plants after they have sent out 2 or 3 rounds of blooms. This will stop the plants producing more flowers. In this way the plants can put more of their energy into creating pods.

    I think this is your problem.

    I forgot to mention this in the original post, but I mentioned it above in a reply to Nancy.

  70. Patrick, what an amazing amount of fava info! Ok, I planted the beans in October (San Jose,CA)…it was pretty dry and they suffered a bit. But now they are doing quite well- some are 2.5 ft tall. I started shoveling them under, cutting the pieces with the shovel blade. They are not woody. I did this to two of my garden boxes. My concern is timing. I read somewhere the nodules should be pink- they are whitish. Then I wondered, can I wait to harvest the beans and have them as a cover crop and food crop as well. I still have one box left to deal with. If I wait till they set the beans and then compost the woodier stalks, do I still get the benefits of the nitrogen fixatin? From what I read in the comments above, it sounds like the beans have done their job already. I’m confused. I’ve never done cover crops before! Thanks for all the knowledge!

  71. Hi Dorian,

    It sounds like they are a little on the large side to be dug under. Normally you do this when they are almost just leafy and about 6″, and don’t have anything resembling a stalk yet. The idea is they should at least partly decompose in the ground before you plant the next crop, which is usually done about a month after you dig them in. Now, having said this, don’t panic. You may have pieces of plants in the ground for a while, but they shouldn’t really cause any harm. It’s more a matter of convenience people put them in the compost rather than dig them under.

    Yes, the benefits of the nitrogen fixing occur over time, but the plants tend to fix according to their own needs. This means as the plants reach the end of their life the nitrogen fixing stops. In fact most of the nitrogen fixing occurs early on. In your case, your plants are probably well past the point they are still fixing a lot of nitrogen.

    Both pink and white nodules are normal.

    If I were you what I would do now is the following. Wait and harvest you last box as a food crop. Garden fresh favas are a real treat! Unless you have another favorite way, sautee them in a little olive oil and a bit of garlic. Then just gently pull out the plants and compost them, probably a 10 minute task because at that point the ground is very soft and the plants easily pull out. In this way you will get all the benefits of nitrogen fixing, and the ground will be soft and ready for the next crop probably without the need to dig. If there are some weeds, just pull them out as well.

    If you do the same thing next year, I suggest either turning them under earlier or growing them as a food crop and composing the plants like I describe above.

    I hope this helps, good luck!

  72. Hi,
    My dad has grown fava beans for the past 5 years and every year it grow a beautiful plant but produces no bean. What causes this and how is that corrected. Thank you.


  73. Hi Mike,

    I’m not sure. Can you provide any more information about the variety you’re growing, where you live and what type of soil you have? Have you had problems with insect pests? Do you cut the tops of the plants off after they have sent up a few spirals of flowers?

    This last point is very important, because if you just let the plants grow untouched they tend to put all of their energy into producing more flowers, but if you cut the tops off then they concentrate their energy into producing beans. If you have problems with aphids or other insect pests, cutting the tops off can help with this too.

    If the tops of the plant aren’t the cause of the problem, then the next thing I would try is a different variety of fava bean.

  74. After talking to my dad it sounds like he never cuts the top off. We live in Pittsburgh, not sure what type of soil, but there are no insects. So it sounds like we need to cut the tops off. Is there anything else we sould look into doing? thank you

  75. Hi Mike,

    Cutting the tops off should help a lot, but if that doesn’t solve the problem I suggest trying another variety of fava bean. I can’t think of anything else to try. Good luck.

  76. Thanks for the info. One more question. Years ago I had a stop over in Boston and I walked from the airport to the nearby Italian section of town. It was a Sunday morning- pretty dead. I went into a little store and bought some salted and roasted fava beans. They were delcious. Question: Would you know how to make these beans? I haven’t seen them since. Dorian (It’s amazing to see how many people are thinking about favas even in the last few days!)

  77. Hi Dorian,

    Here in Amsterdam we can buy roasted fava beans in a Chinese food store.

    Even though they are called roasted, I think the are actually deep fried. If you don’t have a deep fat fryer, you might try frying a few of them in a wok or frying pan. If you start out with dry fava beans, you may need to soak them overnight in water.

    If you try this, please come back and let us know how they came out!

  78. I planted my Fava Beans Seeds in late September 2008. As of March 8, 2009 some of the vines are over six feet tall, but no beans. Lots of flowers. Should I just wait or are these compost material? I need the ground space by May 1 for pea planting.

  79. Adding from the above post

    I live near San Francisco about 1.5 miles from the ocean. I’m growing VFA03-Fava Lunga Della Cascine.
    The plants are growing around a trellis
    if I should cut the tops how much should a cut?

  80. Hi Larry, it will help a lot to cut off the tops. You normally cut them off just above the most recent spiral of flowers, but it’s not very critical. If you cut off the tops you stop the plants ability to produce more flowers, which is what you want. Normally the plants only need 2-3 spirals of flowers to produce a full harvest of beans, and otherwise the extra flowers just waste the plant’s resources.

  81. Patrick,

    My plants seem to have gotten the message! I cut the tops off on Monday and today Friday I see some beans are starting.


  82. Patrick,
    Thank you for all the extremely informative posts!
    We are trying to compile a list of northern california fava bean growers for food, do you know where to find such info?
    We would like to purchase both fresh and dried fava beans for a restaurant use (under development) and we like the california variety as we find it the most tasty.
    Any help on this will be much appreciated.
    We are located in San Francisco and would love to talk to you more about fava beans as we have many questions, not much about growing as it is about obtaining and handling excellent fava bean variety in both fresh and dry forms.

  83. Hello Hattem,

    I’m sorry, I live in Amsterdam, Netherlands. I don’t know anything about a special variety that’s grown in California or anything about growers or suppliers of fava beans in your area.

    If anyone else reading this wishes to get in touch with Hattem, let me know and I’ll be glad to pass on your contact details.

  84. I have a fava question. We planted a raised bed with fava’s in Sept. ( I live in California ) and now they are 30 inches or more tall and full of beautifull flowers. What happens next? Will they produce pods?

  85. Hi Matt,

    The plants only need 2-3 spirals of flowers to set pods for a full harvest, after that the flowers just waste the plant’s resources and can prevent pods from forming. You should cut the tops of the plants off, so they can’t produce any more flowers.

    But, yes, after that they should develop pods. For eating harvest right after the pods become solidly plump, or wait until they turn black for dry eating beans or seeds to replant.

  86. Hatterm

    There is a grower at the Saturday Ferry Building Farmers Market from the Half Moon Bay area that sells Peas, Brussels Sprouts and Fava Beans. No guarantees they are there all the time, but when I’ve ask this grower questions he not only knowlegable, but very friendly about answering questions. There stand is in the back part of the market in one of the curved areas.

  87. Thanks Patrick and Larry! I will swing by the Ferry Building’s Farmers Market this coming sat to look for the grower. Cheers.

  88. I got some large red beans (about 1″x0.5″) from my father in Texas. He’s certain they are fava beans but says he puts them in (near San Antonio, TX) around now and has beans around August but I think he puts them in a pretty shaded area. Given this info, I’m afraid I put them in too early but did this based on everyone saying they are cold weather crops. I live in Virginia near DC. I put 3 beans in (hoping to get 1 plant) just over 2 weeks ago and they haven’t sprouted. How long do they generally take to sprout? Should I wait or give it another try? When?

    Thanks for sharing all this great info on fava beans.

  89. Hi Krystal,

    I’m not familiar with the type of fava bean you have, but it sounds like you are doing everything right. Yes, I would have expected them to sprout by now too, but I would wait a little longer. In colder weather they grow more slowly. At least wait another week or two.

    It’s important the seeds are fresh. Fava bean seeds are only good for one year. If what you planted is older than one year, they won’t grow and you should try again with fresher seeds.

    Fava beans will normally tolerate cold down to about 20F. My understanding is the DC area doesn’t usually get colder than this, so if I were you I would plant them a little earlier if you try again, perhaps January or February. They don’t normally tolerate hot weather well, and it surprises me your dad can get a good harvest so late in the summer in TX.

  90. Can you get a rash from the leaves? my husband and I both got a rash that looks like poision oak and it seems to be from the Favas _ have you hear of this?

  91. Hi Andrea,

    I’m sorry to hear about the rash! I’ve never heard of anyone getting a rash from fava bean plants before, but there is a condition called favism where some people can be allergic to both the beans and plants. This is normally only a problem for people who are of decent from the area around the Mediterranean, and it’s almost never a problem for women.

    You can read more about it here:


    If you don’t have problem eating fava beans, you probably don’t have favism.

  92. Patrick, thanks for all the great info on growing favas. I live in N. Calif and grew my first crop over the winter. It has been very rewarding as the plants grew large and vigorously and are quite attractive. After reading this page and all the comments, I’d like to add a couple things.

    My favas grew very tall, almost 6 feet tall, and required some support to keep them from falling over. Perhaps I should have topped them earlier as you suggested, or, I’ve also read that growing them with a vining legume, like vetch, can provide additional support.

    Re: nitrogen fixation and the ability of legumes to improve soil fertility, from what I’ve read elsewhere, almost all of the nitrogen that is fixed by the crop goes directly into the plant. So when you remove the plant after harvest (assuming you’re not digging it under while young), you have removed the nitrogen that was fixed and it won’t be returned to the soil until you compost the plants and return the compost to the planting bed. That wasn’t clear to me at first and I thought other readers might also be confused.

    I’m planning to remove most of my crop to the compost bin when it’s time to plant summer veggies, but allow enough pods to “go black” to give me seeds for next season.

  93. Hi Rick,

    Thanks for the comment! I like the idea of using a vining legume for support. Not all varieties of favas grow so large, and another possibility would be to grow a shorter variety. I often grow my favas with white clover, which is good for suppressing weeds. You can really do a lot of interesting things with companion planting.

    I don’t think I agree with what you say about most of the fixed nitrogen going into the plant. Among other things it probably depends on your soil and climate as well as the variety of fava bean. In my experience the soil can be made a lot richer with fava beans, even if you completely remove the plants themselves. Of course it can only help to return the plants to the ground, either by composting them first or turning them under, but this isn’t as important as you make it sound.

    Good luck with everything!

  94. Great information here, thanks.
    Last year I bought a package of Fava seeds and a package of bacterial innoculant to use with the seeds.
    Unfortunatly I didn’t get to use the seeds after all. So I would like to plant them this September, which here in Southern California is the time to plant cold weather plants.
    Is it reasonable to expect the seeds and innoculant will still be viable in September, by which time I will have had them for over a year, or should I just start over with a couple of new packages?

  95. Hi Ron,

    Both fava beans and innoculant need to be used in the year they were produced for.

    You say you bought them last year. Did you buy them at the very end of last year? If so, they might still be good in September, but otherwise I think you should start over with fresh for both of them.

    If you like, you can do a germination test on the seeds. Put them in several layers of wet paper towels, and wait a week to see if they sprout. I suggest doing this right before you intend to plant them.

  96. Can Fava Beans (dried seed) be used to feed cattle? And if so is there anything that needs to be done to them?

  97. Hi Sue,

    I’ve just made a post out of your question here:


    I’m afraid I don’t have any experience raising cattle, but I know a number of people reading this blog do, so hopefully someone else can help out. Please check back in a few days and see if anyone has added any comments.

  98. Thanks so much for all this information and lovely conversation about fava beans. This was the first time to grow them and didn’t know about trimming them so the harvest is small. Have enjoyed looking at/watching them very much though and will give it a go earlier next year and, thanks for the info, not in the same locations. Will let some set for seed for next year. I’ve had a lovely evening’s read. Thanks again.

  99. Hi Mary – Thanks for stopping by!

    Sue – Except for Gintoino’s comment about horses, no one else seems to be coming forward right now. I suggest checking back in a month or so when more people will have had a chance to leave a comment. In the meantime, if you find something out from somewhere else, please come back and let us know.

  100. I have been trying to grow favas, and the plants look good, but every time I get excited about all the flowers, and then there is nothing. The flowers turn black and die, and there is no bean. I am in San Antonio and am growing them in the cooler season. I am not seeing any particular bugs, though I have tried some natural repellents. Do you know what might be wrong?

  101. This is in response to the rash question.
    I live in Elk Grove south of Sacramento Northern Cal.

    I grew my first crop of fava beans and over wintered them. I have been excited to harvest them and try them in recipes.
    I too got a rash and have wondered if it from the favas. It was very itchy. I planned to go to the Dr. but… I keep harvesting my favas and continue to itch. Not sure why.

  102. Hi Beth,

    It could be you’re not cutting off the tops of the plants. If you look up at the last several comments we’ve talked about this recently. Otherwise, I’m not sure what the problem is. Good luck!

  103. Good day to you Patrick
    Can I freeze frash fava beans after or first to steem few minutes and then freeze? I like to presurve them fresh not dryed. Thanx

  104. Hi Valentina,

    You need to cook them first.

    If you like you can steam them for a few minutes, but you can also cook them other ways. I like to cook them in olive oil with a little garlic, then freeze them.

  105. Hi Patrick

    Just finished pulling up the last of the Fava Beans.
    Thanks to your suggestion I had a great crop. I will replant again in late October of November.

  106. I was given some fava beans to plant by a neighbor. The bag of dried beans they gave me was full of little black beetles. The neighbors said that anytime you had fava beans you had the beetles. I planted last fall and now have beautiful 21/2ft tall plants loaded with pods! I would like to avoid having the beetles however! Are you familiar with fava loving beetles and can you tell me how to avoid getting them in my dried beans?
    Love this site!

  107. Hi Susan, The pictures on your blog look really nice! For others reading this, you can see these by clicking on Susan’s name above.

    I personally have never seen these beetles, and I guess you have them because of your mild climate.

    A common way to deal with pests like these beetles is to ‘pasteurize’ your seeds in a freezer. By freezing them for at least several days, this will normally kill eggs and larvae of this sort pest. There are however some things you should know before freezing your seeds.

    The correct level of moisture is critical. If the seeds have too much moisture, this will expand and damage the seeds when they freeze. However if your seeds become too dry they will die. All bean seeds need a small amount of moisture to remain viable, and fava beans are no exception.

    Having said all of this, the moisture range is pretty wide, and as long as you use common sense it should be okay. You seeds should be dry enough so if you were to hit them with a hammer they would shatter and not squish. You should also be very careful if you use methods like forced air or heat to dry them, because you might dry them out so much you kill them.

    The best thing to do is to first do a test freezing with a small number of seeds, then germination test them in several layers of paper towels. If this goes as expected, they do the same with the remaining seeds.

    Freezing fava beans is also a good way to store them for a longer period of time. Fava bean seeds normally only remain viable for a single year, but by freezing them you can extend this to as long as 10 years.

    Good luck!

  108. WOW….what a magical site I found! Thank you Patrick for your service!! My name is Bruce and I live in Laguna Beach,CA. This past year I spent converting all of my clay soil, (cement) into organic soil. And I am using every available space around my home to grow my own food. Yipee!! I ordered many, many heirloom, organic, non-genetically engineered seed catalogs I could get my hands on. I also bought a ton of books on how to grow organically. I just harvested my first crop of fava beans after I learned of their value as a seed cover crop. I am now placing in the ground and planter boxes all of the seeds I have germinated and tended.

    My question: I have read the above comments and questions. I just finished peeling my pods to cook up my first organic veg crop. I want to save seeds for next year. Some of the seeds in the pods have started to sprout. The pods are not all black. Some shiny and green and some the same with black spots on the pod. As I gathered from what I culled in this blog is – the ones to save for seed are the ones that show NO signs of sprouting. Am I correct about this? I can’t thank you enough for your website. Thank you for your service to all of humanities gardeners who are growing their own healthy food. Blessings to you,Bruce

  109. Hi Bruce,

    Thanks for all the kind words!

    What you’re doing in your garden sounds great.

    As for saving the fava bean seeds, yes like you said be sure to only save seeds that don’t show any signs of sprouting yet. The pods should really be completely black before you harvest them for seeds, and it sounds like you were a little early. Probably your rate of germination will be below normal when you plant them, and you may want to sow some extra seeds in anticipation of this. If you end up with a good rate of germination, you can always thin out the extra plants. Good luck with everything.

  110. I looked up your site because I was looking for advice on harvesting fava beans for seed, and I found what I was looking for! Although I wish I did not have to wait for the pods to turn black because I want to get them out of the ground and plant something else! But I will contain myself..
    I want to take issue with your statement that they do not produce a lot of food. I live in Davis Cailfornia (Near Sacramento). I plant in mid fall a few small patches and I get overwhelmed with masses of beans. I gave away about half and my freezer is half filled with bags of beans, which I will use in soups, stews or just plain fava bean dishes, all year. They seem to be a great vegetable with fiber and vitamins and maybe even protein when they are fully formed. I agree that they are fantastic fried in olive oil with garlic until crsipy. I never peel them. That’s just crazy. The skin is probably good for you and gives you something to chew on. My next project is to learn to cook with the dry beans. My first attempt was not good. they were chalky and hard in a stew even after soaking. I think they need to boil a lot longer than regular beans. I am going to try grinding them and making falafel. I would love to make hummus but I am not sure how…(Not to be confused with “humus” which I make in my compost heap…

  111. I have since found that if the dry beans are well soaked and boiled somewhat longer than regular beans they are actually very good to eat. I made a curry where I used dry fava beans and green fava beans and a few other ingredients. It came out really well.

  112. I’ve planted Fava beans direct from containers purchased from a nursery. There were 3 to 4 bean stalks per container, and I planted these as bunches rather than individually. I have a total of 15 stalks and some are doing better than others. Some are about 1 1/2 feet tall while others are struggling to grow. Can I dig up the Fava stalk and separate these out or will it disrupt growth and ruin my harvest?

  113. Hi Patrick,

    Beans of all types normally don’t tolerate transplanting very well, and favas are no exception. Sometimes people start them indoors and move them outside when they are small with pretty good results, but moving them from one container to another when they are larger isn’t likely to work well. Especially if their roots have grown together, I don’t think they will like the disturbance of being separated.

    If they are going to die where they are, and may die if you transplant them, perhaps you don’t have much to lose by trying. Otherwise, I would just leave them where they are.

  114. Hi Patrick, I planted our favas in the fall and had a bumper crop to harvest now. I have shucked the beans and wondering whether I should put them in my dehydrator or just let the sun at them for a few days? Also, as dried beans, do I need to boil the outer coat off when cooking of just cook them as other beans? I plan to use the best beans for planting this fall. Thanks, Lew
    Northern California Foothills

  115. Hi Lew,

    Both heat and direct sun can reduce the viability of seeds of all kinds, including fava beans. If you are just keeping them to eat, either of those two things would probably be fine, but for seeds I suggest air drying if possible. If you must use a dehydrator, be sure to use the lowest heat setting. Good luck!

    As far as cooking the dried beans go, I don’t think you need to remove the skins, but this may be a matter of taste.

  116. I haven’t this exact question on your site – how long will the bean pods last after they have been harvested? I need to harvest the pods now, and would like to serve them at a party in two weeks. Will they stay good in the pods in the fridge for a few weeks, or do I need to shell them, blanch and freeze them as soon as possible after harvesting?
    Thank you for all your fava knowledge!

  117. Hi Tomese,

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving the comment!

    Fava beans are only good for about one week in the fridge. After this, they tend to dry out and get chewy. I think you are better off shelling, blanching and freezing them. Good luck with the party.

  118. i harvested a whole lot of fava beans for food last sunday, today is tuesday and i haven’t the space in my fridge for them in their shells. i have them in open containers in a coolish room with a fan on them and the shades closed but today i noticed the shells getting a bit soft. i was planning to can them on thurs. but would consider drying or freezing as an alternative.(i am affraid they won’t make it to thurs. like this) could i get some instruction on drying or freezing them ? thanks …zu

  119. Hi Zu,

    Fava beans need to be blanched (cooked in boiling water or steam) for about 2 minutes before freezing. Be sure to start timing the cooking after the water is boiling again after adding the fava beans. After this, you should put them in cold water for a few minutes to cool them off and stop the cooking.

    Most people also remove the skins of the fava beans before freezing, but this is a lot of work and you can leave them on if you don’t mind eating them.

    As an alternative to blanching them, you can also cook them some other way. For example, I like to cook them in olive oil with garlic. It’s important they are somehow cooked before you freeze them.

  120. I have frozen the green beans with the skins on without blanching, several times with good results. They lasted all summer and fall while I gradually consumed them.

  121. Hi Gabe,

    Thanks for the comment. To be honest, I have never tried what you suggest. I sometimes freeze other beans and peas, and they all really need to be blanched or cooked before freezing. Since fava beans are a similar starchy food, I would expect them to need to be cooked too, and when I freeze them I cook them first.

    If anyone else has any experiences with this, I would love to hear.

  122. I live in McKinney, TX just north of Dallas. Being a new gardener I have planted fava beans in May. They are in containers and are ready to transplant. I also have 20 tomato plants and was wondering if I should plant the fava between the tomato plants for the nitrogen benefit. I now know that I planted too late for harvesting, but can I still get benefits in the soil for the tomato plants?

  123. Hi Joan,

    Fava beans are not warm weather plants. I doubt they will survive very long in a hot Texas summer, but it can’t hurt to try! Yes, if they survive, they should provide nitrogen to the tomatoes.

    Tomatoes are sensitive to too much nitrogen fertilizer, but companion planting with fava beans or normal beans usually works well.

  124. Hi, we bought some dry Fava beans from our favorite Mediterrean Market in Cincinnati last winter. We are always trying things and wondered if we could grow these beans in our garden, so we did a few experiments, did some reading and Viola, we had a successful little crop that we just harvested today. We used them primarily in bean soup but tonight we will try some with our Russian kale (two sep recipes) We thought we would try to sell some at the Farmers Market, but decided to keep them for us over the winter. Thanks for all the information you have provided. We plan on blanching and freezing them in my food saver bags. Can you suggest an heirloom site to buy these beans? I’ve looked at Territorary’s site and didn’t find what I wanted.
    Thanks again for the good work you do.
    The Strohm’s

  125. Hi Lee,

    I think you should have saved some seeds from the plants you grew. Is there any way you can get more from the same market?

    There are dozens, possibly hundreds of different kinds of fava beans and without knowing which variety you had I don’t know which seed company might sell it. On top of this page is a ‘Links’ link, and near the bottom of that page are some seed companies. This is all I can suggest.

  126. Ah, I know what you mean. sorry, these are the huge jumbo beans and yes I did save some, but I’ll do more research to find the ones we have. they are approx 1″ or more long and maybe 1/2″ wide…then at one end they have the black on the bean. When eaten, cooked or raw, they have the taste of a nice sweet pea.
    the Strohm’s

  127. Today I picked some young fava beans from my backyard garden – the first picking. The pods were 5 to 6 inches in length. I trimmed off the attaching end of each pod. The remaining pods were a bright green and devoid of any black. I then cooked them for several minutes in boiling, salted water in a copper frying pan with a steel bottom cooking surface. I then served the entire intact pods with butter and salt. They were excellent. However, my wife informed me several hours later that the cooking-bottom of the frying pan had turned black. There was absolutely no black on the pods when I cooked them and when I ate them. Was the blackness of the pan due to a sulfur reaction – or some other chemical in the pods? Is this a common reaction to fava beans that are absolutely free of black when being cooked?
    William Charles Caccamise Sr, MD
    Pittsford (outside of Rochester), New York

  128. Dr. Caccamise,

    I’ve never seen this before, but I don’t normally cook fava beans like this in their pods.

    In organic farming sulfur is sometimes used as a control for mildew related plant problems, and if you had purchased your beans I might have suspected this. Since they came from your own garden, I guess that rules this out.

    Maybe someone else reading this will have some suggestions?

  129. hello sir,
    i wnt to know the medicnal value of faba bean . please tel me i will be highly thankful to u

  130. Hello Shaheen,

    Fava beans contain Levodopa, a precursor to Dopamine, which is sometimes used to treat Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.

    Some varieties of fava beans contains higher levels of Levodopa than others, for example Iant’s Fava sold by Baker Creek Seeds:


    This is the only medical value of fava beans I am aware of.

  131. I bought some fava beans in the pods at the farmers market in Brentwood, CA. Can I dry the pods and plant the seeds or do they need to be on the stalk?


  132. Hi Sandra, no probably not. The beans need to mature fully on the plant (until the pods turn black) and the beans you have are probably too immature.

    You can sometimes buy dry fava beans at farmers markets, because these can be used in soup or middle eastern dishes, and these you might be able to plant.

  133. Thank you so much for providing this service…one thing I read in an old-time gardening encyclopedia is that favas can be interplanted with sweet corn, towards the end of the sweet corn’s season…I’m wondering if it would be OK to plant the seed now, as my corn is tasseling and would shade the soil for the favas? I have the variety Windsor, live about 5 miles inland from Newport, OR.

  134. Hi Liz,

    Fava beans are not a warm weather crop, and I think we’re too far in to summer for it to be a good time to plant them. These are normally planted late fall for overwintering or early spring.

    Corn on the other had is very much a warm weather crop, so I’m having a hard time understanding what thinking was behind the advice in the gardening encyclopedia.

    It’s not uncommon to plant normal, climbing beans, with corn. It’s a little late for this, but with a bit of luck you might still get a harvest this year.

    Corn, beans and winter squash are commonly grown together, and I would suggest planting them around the same time. This is called Three Sisters.

    I’ve never heard of planting fava beans with corn before.

  135. Very nice site! I live in north-central Vermont (Richmond, near Burlington, but higher up) and planted Fava beans for the first time this year. I planted them in the same bed with corn and squash to try to take advantage of the nitrogen ‘boost’ – I didn’t realize they liked cold, so that is a bonus for us here! This year in particular has been ‘odd’ – a very cool summer, much rain, not a lot of sun, but the plants appear to be doing well, and now have flowers. I see from other posts that I should cut the tops off now that there are some flowers, to encourage pods?

    Also, I have perused the comments about black spots on leaves and flowers, but am not finding a satisfactory answer – so please forgive my asking again.

    What I see are black/brown spots or completely blackened leaves – and black spots on the tips of some of the flowers – which eventually fall off. Not on the entire rows, but just a few plants near each other in one specific section. As for pests, we have a lot of small brown slugs this year, but I generally pick those off and toss them onto the road (very satifying!), and a light spray of diluted non-foaming amonmia works extremely well (you can almost hear them scream as they dissolve) – did I mention I hate slugs?

    Anyway, these black spots on leaves and flowers do not appear to be in any way related to the ‘normal’ blackening of the Fava plants upon maturing – there are no pods yet, only small flower blossoms. I’m not sure if it is actually the ‘Chocolate Spot’ – I’m not finding really good descriptions of that. If I had a website I could post the pictures – and perhaps if it is helpful I could set one up?

    Thanks again for this site! I was first introduced to Fava beans in Italy (Capri to be exact) where street vendors sold what were apparently ‘boiled’ beans – they were served in large paper cones, and to eat them you peeled the skin and ate them (I also think they were lightly salted, or perhaps boiled in salted water) – anyway they were very delicious and I’m anxious to try my own this year!

  136. Hi Rich,

    I think you’ve probably figured out your own problem. I suspect you have chocolate spot, or something similar. You might try rubbing some of the spots with a paper towel or maybe scraping it with a knife, to see if you can see some brown color. Chocolate spot is a member of a family of plant diseases usually referred to as rust, and is pretty common in fava beans. It’s almost always brown, maybe dark brown, but I think it might also be black.

    If it’s really black, it might be an early blight related infection.

    Anyway, even if you don’t have chocolate spot, the organic control of most foliage diseases is pretty much the same regardless of the disease or the plants they appear on. Basically, if you can pick off infected foliage, you should start with this. It sounds like your plants are probably in a too advanced state for this. In this case, just hang in there. Let the plants grow, and see what happens. In the case of chocolate spot, it often turns out not to be too serious, and you may still be able to get a normal harvest.

    Regardless, when your plants are finished growing, one way or another, I suggest putting them in the trash rather than the compost to avoid infecting other plants in the future.

    Sorry to hear about the spots, and I hope it all works out.

  137. Dear Patrick. Thanks for a most informative website. It answered all of my questions. My wife and I planted fava beasn for the 1st time this year. We are in Hamilton Montana, wow, what a crop! They grew to be about 3 feet tall, and I found that I did need to support them with stakes as they got so top heavy with the pods. Like 15-20 pods per plant. We just found our first pod that had started to darken and open. we are thinking we will dry the beans on screened trays and store them as you suggest in an open container for soup or hummus.
    I didn’t realize they were doing so much good for the soil. We are using raised beds filled with compost. I put perforated 4″ diameter pvc pipe under the compost pile last year to bring air into the bottom of the pile. Spaced every 2′ seemed dto make a real difference, thousands of worms and no slime. Thanks again for an informative and friendly site. Stan

  138. I’m another first-time Montana fava grower near Bozeman and am wondering if I will have successful pods this year. Cool mornings and nights this summer, the plants are blooming still – maybe I should cut off the tops to encourage pod formation??? They are very happy looking plants, so I hope I wasn’t too late in planting them… Thanks for the site! Lisa

  139. Hi Lisa,

    If the plants are blooming it sounds pretty promising. You should definitely cut the tops off, usually you do this after the plant has sent out 2-3 spirals. It stops the plants from producing more flowers and lets it put it’s resources into making the beans. Good luck!

  140. Hi, I’m trying to save favas for seed and the pods are splitting open before turning very black. They have had black spots for a while and a rusty dirty look, so maybe they’re mature anyway. My beans are shriveling up a lot on drying and the beans I planted were not shriveled at all, should I be worried about their shriveling? I live in New york state.


  141. Hi Mike,

    It’s the wrong time of year to be harvesting fava bean seeds, it means you’ve been growing them through the summer. It’s not that it can’t be done sometimes, but they are cool weather plants and they will be a lot healthier if you plant them in very early spring, as soon as the ground is soft enough to dig. Also, be sure not to give them any fertilizer, they fix nitrogen and make their own fertilizer.

    I suggest waiting as long as possible to harvest the seeds, to let them get as mature as possible on the plants, but of course if the pods are opening and dropping seeds on the ground you shouldn’t wait any more.

    The seeds shrivelling by themselves is not necessarily a problem, but you may want to check them by germination testing a few seeds between layers of wet paper towels for a few days.

  142. Hi Patrick,
    I live in a farming area in England and I’ve been given a big bag of (dry) fava beans so that I can make the mediterranean dish Foul Medames. I’d like to be able to store the beans so that I can make the dish throughout the year, but as they’ve just been harvested mechanically, I think I need to sort out any bits of earth and dried organic matter, and wash them before storage. I’m worried, though, that if I wash them they might rot. I can see from previous comments that you recommend storing them so that they’re open to the air, but I wonder if you have any advice on how I can prepare them for storage?

  143. Hi Dee,

    A weak solution of a little bleach in water works well for cleaning seeds, then rinsed afterwords. As long as the seeds are thoroughly dried within 24 hours, you shouldn’t have any problems with rotting or sprouting.

    Good luck!

  144. I just planted, yesterday, my first small “crop” of edible fava in new rich soil in a sort of raised bed of 4-6 inches deep 7 x 5. [I have been told they will not be ready for eating until May and I will still be able to turn some of the stalks under, and that meanwhile they will be releasing nitrogen anyway.] We had a cold night below 40 degrees, today will be sunny and about 60 or so but it may begin to rain soon as I live in the Oregon Willamette Valley, what should I do so that they do not get washed away? Top with leaves or a sort of mulch, surround with mulch?, or what else do you suggest? Thanks.

  145. Another question is, can I plant fava in earth that has a lot of clay in it and is pretty hard?, will the roots be able to dig in? This would mean not making a sort of raised bed, but just breaking up 1-2 inches of topsoil. I have extra been seeds and wonder about growing in two different areas. Thanks.

  146. Hi Alison,

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

    I’ve never had the problem of fava beans washing away, or really any seeds for that matter. If your soil is high in organic material like mine is, it doesn’t usually wash away. I’m afraid I don’t have much advice here to offer, but if it’s in a raised bed, will that help with the washing away?

    Fava beans do great in clay ground! While I wouldn’t suggest putting them in ground that truly rock hard, in fact they do a very good job loosening hard ground and in general improving it. The only problem you might have is with weeds, which will grow fast and be difficult to dig out. You might try planting some white clover together with the fava beans, which does a great job at smothering the weeds without interfering with the fava beans.

    Good luck with it all!

  147. Hi. I’m new to this. I planted my fava beans a week ago. How long before I can see the sprouts? I also planted crimson clover as a cover crop. How long do I have to wait to see the little sprouts growing? (Thanks. I couldn’t find anything online about this). Elaine

  148. Hi Elaine,

    You don’t say where you are, but my computer thinks you’re in WA state.

    Depending on how cold your climate is, I would expect you would see sprouts from the fava beans in a few weeks which will grow slowly through the winter, picking up speed as the weather warms.

    The clover won’t appear until the spring, and the weather really warms up a bit. The clover is useful for smothering weeds, but you may find the weeds get a little head start because the clover doesn’t start growing fast enough. You may have to pull a few weeds by hand as the clover establishes itself.

    If clover doesn’t commonly grow in your area, you may have the problem of soil bacteria and might need to use an inoculant. I suggest you just try what you are doing now, and if the clover doesn’t grow look into soil bacteria:


    Note, you could potentially have the same problem with the bacteria and fava beans, which need a different strain of bacteria from clover and so will need to be addressed separately. Again, just go ahead with what you are doing now, but if you have problems, think about looking into this.

    Crimson clover is also very aggressive, and you might find you need to pull a little bit of it back to give the fava beans some more space, but otherwise it should work great.

    Good luck with everything!

  149. Thanks for the answers. Well the beds survived the deluge, more will come, but I think they will be ok, only looks a bit rough, but no seeds floating away.

    I will, for an experiment, plant some in another area that has clay. I already have weeds and such in the area, but might do a cover as you say–I was also told about using peas (forget which) as a cover.

  150. Hi, Patrick,
    I have the same question as Susan 5/5/09 about the bugs in the dryed fava beans and I’m looking for a solution.I’m tring the freezing the seeds idea: w’ll see.
    Joseph Valenzano, San Jose, CA

  151. Hi, I’ve run across an interesting presentation of fava in a couple of over priced yuppie restaurants (4 seasons for one) the entire pod is flame broiled and served semi-blackened, leaving one to figure how to get the beans out one’s self. At the local rate of exchange, two pods were about six bucks, came with a rather pretty bit of scallion, though. I’m growing them in the rainy season in costa rica and have added grilling them to the uses, do a lot more of them of course, just throw them on with the corn. During the St Anthony’s Portuguese festival in Pismo beach Ca, the sidewalks are littered with fava skins. They’re cooked al dente in fairly salty water and eaten like the boiled green peanuts one finds in the southern U.S.
    By the way, most fava varieties are daylength sensitive and taper off bearing when the days get longer than 12-12 1/2 hrs. I’ve read of day neutral varieties on some of the UK sites. They seem to plant them frequently as a fall crop.

    Thanks for the seed freezing tip. The rain forest just ain’t a real great place for keeping things dry. Mary Zeman, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica

  152. Joseph: Good luck with the freezing!

    Mary: Thanks for all of that. I hadn’t heard before that fava beans were daylight sensitive, but in most climates they don’t grow well in mid summer because of the heat.

  153. Hi, Patrick,
    As to the bugs in the dried fava beans, I don’t think that the drying will do anything other than to kill the actual bugs in the beans, but there must be some moth or flying insect that will deposit eggs in the pods while growing. As mater of fact you can see black spots, like black pimples, on the pods on the plants and then the larvae must find their way in the beans themselves.
    I’m rather looking for some information as to how to spot and prevent (insecticides?) these moths or insects from attcking the pods.
    Mr. V.

  154. Hi again Mr.V.,

    I’m an organic gardener, and I’m afraid I don’t know anything about pesticides.

    Freezing will probably work to kill the eggs, but it’s possible you will need to freeze and thaw your fava beans a few times to mimic the natural temperature cycles the insect might encounter in the garden. In this way, you encourage the eggs to hatch and then kill the insects as this happens. Don’t over do it, because too many temperature changes can damage the seeds.

    This is a common technique for dealing with this kind of problem.

    I hope this helps…

  155. Hi Auntwanda,

    Yes, fava beans will probably grow in Texas, but they are cold weather crops and won’t tolerate the heat of summer. You probably need to grow them through the winter.

  156. Hi Patrick,

    I live in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I noticed a local mill sells a flour blend made from garbanzo beans and fava beans. It is used in some gluten-free bread recipes.

    Do you have any recommendations on how to prepare the fava beans (and the garbanzo beans, for that matter)to make my own flour?

    By the way, your consistent work on this thread over all these years is definitely appreciated! It is great to see the continued interest by everyone.


  157. Hi Kent,

    According to the Wikipedia page on Gram Flour, you roast the cooked garbanzo beans in a medium oven for 2-3 hours, then grind them into flour. They suggest a mortar and pestle, but I know you can use a food processor too.

    I have to admit, I’ve never tried this with fava beans, but I guess this would be where to start.

    Gram flour is one of my favorite ingredients in Indian food, in particular I really like pakoras and onion bhajis. I never thought of making these with fava bean flour!

  158. Patrick,

    I am considering planting fava beans to get the best of both worlds: I’d like to turn some over and keep some for food. I have an area about 20′ long and 2′ wide to work in. It is partially shaded, but gets about 4 hours of sun a day most of the year. I am in extreme northern Coastal California, on the Humboldt Bay. Our weather typically ranges from 30-50 degrees in the winter and 45-70 in the summer. When would be the best time to plant, how would you suggest arranging the plants in this long, narrow configuration, and about how many pods grow per plant?

    Thanks in advance,


  159. Hi Ray,

    Favas really like full sun. This may simply be a show stopper for you.

    Favas like about 1′ spacing in all directions. This probably means you you have to choose for 2 or 3 rows, depending on what borders the area and if you are willing to take a chance on crowding the plants, and your rows will be about 20 plants long.

    I think you can plant almost any time. If you think there’s a part of the year you get more hours of sun, this may be the best time.

    The number of pods depends on the variety you choose, and how much sun your plants get. Fava beans are not known to be very prolific. If you have 60 plants, and use it all for food, you should be thinking along the lines of 2-3 meals for 2-3 people.

    You live in a wonderful area. I used to live in Butte County, and was in your area once. A lovely and secluded place.

  160. Hi Patrick,
    I haven’t read all of the posts but I don’t think anybody has mentioned that you can cook imature fava’s like regular green beans when they are about six inches long and about one third or less of an inch thick. I grow about 300 to 400 feet of row in a typical year and have both green and purple seeded varieties which have probably cross pollinated. I let some dry each year for seed and get both colors of seed from 1/4 to 1 inch long. I eat and freeze some but the bulk of them go to make my Sicilian friends in Monterey, Ca smile. I also graze on them out in the garden when I am working out there. When fresh and dry beans are gone I either roto-till them directly into the ground or pull them and run them through my chipper then till them in. They do attract aphids here but either a strong stream of water or a dilute solution of water and malathion takes care of that. The aphids quickly multiply and if not removed will make a mess of the plants. I hope this isn’t too long. I’ve been growing these things for at least 40 years and I love them. If people want to know how to prepare them google fava recipes and there will probably be hundreds of recipes for both side dishes and appetizers. We Portuguese like to combine them with linguica or just tomato and onion. If you can’t successfuly grow favas in California you need to take up another hobby, it’s that easy.


  161. I have not seen much entries about weeds. I come from Malta (Europe) and people here are cazy about fave beans. In fact there is a season of Fave beans.

    However there is a problem in Malta with Fava Beans. A weed grows WITH the fava plant and sucks the life out of the Fava plant. Every plant gets a Weed growing with it as if a twin. If one tries to uproot the weed the whole fava plant might come out with it since the roots are so intertwined. So the best way is to break the stalk out of the weed and contiue on. Is there anything that can be done to kill this weed? I like the idea of planting some other legumes to kill the weeks. Can you suggest some plants that can be planted with the beans without sucking the life out of the bean plant? The Weed looks like the bean plant itself and is sturdy and flowers earlier than the beans. I wish I knew the name of the weed, but I do not. I am not sure it is a common occurance in the USA.

  162. Hi Camillus,

    I’m in Europe too, Amsterdam, but I think we have very different climates!

    The best thing I have found to grow with fava beans is clover, in particular white clover. Clover is sometimes hard to get established if it’s not already common in your area, because it requires the presence of a bacteria in the ground. You might want to try growing some as a test to verify that it does okay, before planting it with the favas.

    Other clovers will work too, but generally the white clover is the least aggressive. Clover won’t suck the life out of the fava beans, because it’s also a legume, but it might grow so fast it smothers young fava beans. If necessary you can pull some of the clover out with your hands to give the favas more space.

    If you have a problem with an established perennial weed, you probably need to establish the clover a year or more before you grow the favas, and it may not work in the end.

    Good luck, and please let us all know if you discover something that works!

  163. So if I have 15 fava beans how much area would I need to grow them sucessfuly?

    And also Today is march 23 is this a ok time to plant them?

    When should they be ready to harvest for food?

  164. So also how much light would they need without not having enough and having to much?

  165. Hi Savannah,

    You don’t say where you are, and the world is a big place with lots of different climates. I’m guessing you’re in Oregon, from your Internet address.

    Fava beans are cold weather crops, so this is not really the best time to plant them. In your climate, probably January is a better time or as soon as you can dig the ground if it’s frozen then. You can also probably plant them in the fall for growing through the winter. I wouldn’t count on them to do well if you plant them now.

    Fava beans usually need full sun. Plant spacing is normally about a foot (30cm) in all directions. You can plant them a little closer if you need to. Spacing and sun are not dependent on one another.

    Fava beans grow slower in colder weather, and days to maturity depends on the variety you plant. Probably the package you bought them in or the store selling them will give you the number of days to maturity for your particular variety. Generally it’s about 60 days in warmer weather, and longer when it’s colder.

    Good luck!

  166. Hi Patrick, In reading these comments, sounds like Jean’s experience with fava beans would be very helpful to me. Like her, I live in the Deep South.Seems there are many varieties of fava beans. What seed did she use, and should I use? Where can I purchase these seeds?
    Thanks, John

  167. Hi John,

    Jean left that comment here almost 2 years ago, and I doubt she is coming back to check this discussion anymore. I’ve sent an email to the address she gave and asked her permission to forward it to you. If I hear from her and she agrees, I’ll do this, but otherwise I don’t think I can be of any help.

  168. I live ~30 miles south of San Francisco on the Peninsula. Last year I was given a dozen fava bean seed which I planted in March and had a phenomenal crop. I saved dozens of seed which I planted last fall. The plants are doing great–~4 feet tall, lots of flowers, but no pods! What did I do wrong? Or am I just impatient? I did plant them closer than recommended here, could that be the problem? Any advice would be welcomed. Thanks.
    By the way–the germination rate from the seeds I let mature on the plants and saved last year was close to 100%. They were purple fava beans that I ‘won’ at a county agricultural talk. When they are peeled, etc., they are green.

  169. Hi Deb,

    After the plants send out 2-3 spirals of flowers, you should pinch off the tops of the plants so they put their energy into producing pods.

    Fava beans almost never need any fertilizer, and this problem could be caused by using fertilizer.

    Since you don’t know where the seeds came from, there is a small chance they are commercial F1 hybrids, meaning what you are growing now many not be the same as the plants from last year and maybe genetically unstable. If all the plants look different, this may be the reason. As far as I’m aware, commercial F1 hybrid fava beans are pretty rare.

    Otherwise, I don’t know what the problem could be.

    You don’t say how close you planted them, within reason this isn’t usually a big problem, but 1 foot spacing is normally best.

  170. Thanks Patrick,
    What a great quick reply! I haven’t fertilized them at all–other than ‘vermi-compost juice’. The good news is that when I took a closer look today, I did see some very small (~1 inch pods), so I may have just been too impatient. I will take your advice and pinch off the tops and add them to my ‘normal’ compost. My ‘purple’ favas are planted quite close (~4-6 inches on all sides) in a big plot. My Windsor fava beans (I bought a seed pack to compare)are planted about 6 inches apart in a row with either nothing or else some snow peas about a foot away. They were planted months later than the others and seem to have caught up with respect to pods.

  171. I think I’m so impatient about harvesting some beans because I want to put tomatoes in the bed where the beans are now and I could plant the tomatoes today if I had the space!

  172. I live 20 miles east of San Francisco. I planted fava beans last fall to fix nitrogen and basically enrich my clay, adobe soil. The plants are now about 42″ tall and BEAUTIFUL! My raised bed is about 25′ x 25′. To turn these into the soil (by hand with a garden fork), do I cut the stems down to a few inches so I do not have so much stringy material to turn into the soil or what? The soil quality is wonderful and I need to get my tomatoes in soon.

    Please let me know. Thanks for your wise garden counsel.

  173. Hi Rick,

    I used to live about 20 miles east of San Francisco, in Concord for 3 years then later Berkeley.

    As for the fava beans, I suggest putting them in the compost instead of turning them under. Normally when you turn them under you do this when the plants are still small, usually around 6″. You also normally do this about a month before planting anything else, to give them a chance to break down a bit first. It’s not very healthy for your soil to have large pieces of still intact plant material.

    Good luck with the tomatoes!

  174. Here in my part of California, there is a popular belief that allowing fava beans to form on the plant causes the nitrogen to leave the roots and migrate to the beans, leaving little or no nitrogen in the soil.
    Makes no sense to me, but what do I know? I am just an IP (patent) attorney, and what do THEY know?


  175. Hi Gene,

    It is true that seed production is the most nitrogen intensive part of the plant cycle, and there’s little doubt that fava beans will consume some of their nitrogen at this point. I tend to doubt it’s as extreme as you suggest, but I don’t honestly know.

    My completely unscientific personal experience is that the soil seems much richer and higher in nitrogen after growing fava beans in it, even if they are grown to the point of maturity.

    Are people like you the reason I’m not allowed to download things from the Internet??

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving the comment!

  176. Dear Patrick,
    First I’d like to tip my hat to you- your information on fava beans is absolutely fantastic and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for you answering all of these questions about this wonderful bean! I’ll say too that I think you’ve already answered my questions several times over, but I am really hoping for a different answer- so here goes.
    I live in Oakland, CA and I just got a community garden plot that had some wonderfully tall fava bean plants covered in pods. I want to replant for the summer so yesterday I plucked the pods and uprooted the plants. My plan was to use the pods for seeds for the winter and the stalks to enrich the soil. As I’ve read on this page, I fear I have done two things wrong- 1. the pods are too immature for seeds and 2. the stalks will only be useful if I have a compost pile to put them in, which unfortunately, my community garden hasn’t quite started yet. So, Patrick, in all of your infinite wisdom, please tell me “no Cale, you have not done anything wrong at all- you can still use those seeds for planting in the winter just do x, y, z, and those stalks are perfect for green manure for your soil, just do a, b, c!” Then I’ll say “Geez, thanks Patrick- you are the best!!!” Oh, actually, I’m gonna say that anyway, because truly, Patrick, you are the best. Thank you again sincerely for your helpful and friendly advice on the subject. You are a real life good samaritan.

  177. Patrick,
    Thanks for the great info on Favas. I was just looking at mine today and thinking I might try topping them just above the last bean pods, then lo and behold you recomend it in your posts. I’ve been growing them for about 10 years now and find them to be the most fool proof plant I’ve ever grown. I have good luck with seed that has just been sitting in my garage for several years. They also seem to attract beneficial insects and lots of bumble bees.
    Thanks again!
    Fair oaks, CA

  178. Hi,
    great info….
    I’ve just started an organic vegetable garden in our new home. I’m concerned with the fact that i’ve used free city mulch on my raised beds. Perhaps someone has thrown out poison oak into the green waste bins, it’s been collected by the city, mulched and i’ve thrown it onto my vegeatables. Any ideas on the risk of ingesting anything harmful here.?

  179. Hi Cale,

    Thanks for stopping by! I’m sorry, but I don’t have much good news for you.

    In order to get seeds from fava beans, the pods need to have turned black before you harvest them. Otherwise they are too immature.

    As far as the stalks go, you probably shouldn’t dig them under anymore, because they are too big. Maybe you can find something else to do with them? If you cut them into small pieces, maybe you can use them as mulch?

    In my community garden we have our own compost piles. Are you not allowed to do your own composting? Space is always a problem, and I think all community gardeners are always looking for more, but a container like this doesn’t take up very much space:


    Anyway, I hope this helps.

  180. Hi Michael,

    Usually the worst thing you find in city mulch are some pieces of trash you have to pick out.

    As long as what you have is only plants, there isn’t likely to be anything harmful in them. Some people might use pesticides on their plants, and this could end up in your mulch, but the chances of there being something harmful or even significant amounts of anything is very small in my opinion.

    Poison oak might give you a rash when it’s fresh, but after it breaks down and rots in your garden it’s harmless.

    I wish I had convenient access to city mulch!

  181. Great thread here. Very helpful. This is the first year I planted favas over winter to regenerate the soil for my tomatoes and I’ve ended up with lots of delicious beans! They taste really good even if not fully grown.

  182. Patrick: my pods go very quickly from partially black to totally black and moldy. Some of the green pods have green beans but also tan or brown. Are only the green beans edible fresh (and not cooked like dry beans)? Can one not harvest pods with large beans and shell them and dry them out for use as seeds?

  183. Hi Loren,

    It sounds like what you have is a little too old to eat green and fresh, but you can try if you want. Otherwise, I think it’s best to let them dry out and eat them cooked like dry beans.

    Yes, you can generally eat and let dry for seeds any combination of pods on the same plant. If you want to save seeds for replanting, be sure to check and see if they are a hybrid variety (either buy an heirloom variety which you know won’t be F1, otherwise have a look on the package as F1s are often labelled as such). If they are a hybrid variety, what grows after replanting the seeds will be variable, not the same as the parent plants and probably not interesting.

    A little mold is normal as the pods turn black. If the seeds look okay after harvesting, it’s usually a good idea to rinse them off with a weak bleach solution before setting out to dry. If the seeds themselves have black or moldy spots, they are bad.

  184. Hi there!
    My preschooler brought home a mystery seedling with no instructions and I put it in the sunlight on a windowsill 6 weeks ago and she watered it faithfully every day and now it’s a just over a metre tall, supported by cane, bearing pretty white flowers at the top with the older ones further down dying away within a few days. I only just found out today that it’s a fava bean plant and summers about to start here. Can it stay indoors for now or should it be outside? It’s gone high above the cane now but is too spindly to support itself. Summers here in Manchester UK are only average 22 degrees c – would it be ok outside? What’s the best thing to do with it? She’s besotted with it, especially now it’s taller than her!

  185. Hi Elaine,

    Just when I was starting to think we had already covered everything here!

    If it’s spindly, it’s probably not getting enough light. Often fava beans don’t like their roots disturbed, especially when they are so big, so transplanting may kill it. I think it will be okay outside, they normally can’t tolerate summer heat but if you normally have cool summers it should be okay.

    I would say move it outside, but leave it in it’s pot if possible. If you think the pot is way too small by now, then transplant it into the ground.

    If you move it outside, do it gradually. The shock of suddenly moving a plant outside can kill it. Start with 15-30 minutes the first day, then gradually increase this over the course of about a week. If the plant looks stressed, return it to the house for a day.

    I hope this helps!

  186. I found some fava beans that were given to me a month ago in the bottom of the veggie drawer. I have never seen or cooked with them before. When I open the pod, the beans seem to be edible. They are green and plump with just a few brown spots, however they are sprouting. Are they edible? Should we try to plant them instead? We are in Boulder, Colorado.

  187. Hi Jessie,

    They are probably a little past prime for eating. It’s probably better to wait a while before planting them, because they don’t tolerate summer heat well. Starting in August or September might be a better time. If they are spouting, they should still be able to grow, but you might be better off buying some fresh seeds.

    Hope this helps…

  188. if you are only going to grow a type of bean indoors, year round? would you then need to allow the seeds to fully dry out? or could you take a “Shellie” out and drop it in the dirt? anyone ever tried it?
    Thanks so much,
    Momma Bear

  189. Hi Mamma Bear,

    If anyone else has another experience I hope they will share it, but I doubt you’ll have much luck with a bean from a purchased fresh fava bean pod. The seeds probably won’t have matured enough on the plant.

    There’s no reason you can’t grow it indoors. The only problem is fava bean plants are not too productive, so you’ll need a lot of space for just a meal or two.

    If you try either of these things, let us know how it goes!

  190. Some one gave me a fava bean and i never ate one. i decided to plant one to see what would happen. i soaked it first in water and when it opened up i planted it in a flower pot. it is coming up and i do not know what do with it since it is coming up. do i leave it in the pot and it is about 2in tall. so can anyone please give me some advice on what to do with it. should i leave it in the pot or what. thank you.

  191. Hi Mary,

    It’s the wrong time of year to be trying to grow fava beans, as they are a cool weather plant. It may still do okay anyway, depending on your climate.

    It will grow indoors in a pot, if that’s what you want. You can also transplant it outdoors, but be sure to move it outside slowly over the course of about a week like I describe a few posts up or the shock may kill it. If you want to move it outdoors, you should do it before it gets too big, because mature fava bean plants don’t like their roots disturbed.

    Good luck. I hope this helps.

  192. Last year I grew favas for the first time. After the harvest, I cut the plants down to a few inches above the ground. The plants sent up new shoots and I got a second smaller crop of favas in the fall. Some peas will do this, too.

    I just cut this years favas down and am looking forward to another fall crop!

    Thanks for maintaining your fava site!

  193. Hi Garrett,

    This isn’t my experience, are you sure you’re growing fava beans? Sometimes runner beans will do this, if you have the right climate.

    Fava beans are an annual, meaning they only grow once. Like most beans if they are allowed to produce seeds, this usually means the end of the plant’s life cycle, and it dies. My plants are always stone dead at the end of the season.

    Since it’s not possible for me to know every variety and everyone’s climate who reads this post, if you really do have fava beans that will grow back from the roots, I’d like to know the name of the variety and where you live so I can look into it further.

  194. The variety I’m growing is Windsor. I’m sure it’s a fava.

    Have you tried letting them grow back after cutting them down? It may take a few weeks for the buds to start growing again. They look dead at first, but if you keep them watered, they should resume growing.

    As long as the roots don’t dry out, they should send out new shoots. I think they may be growing from the buds at the bottom of the stems, maybe not actual new stems forming.

    I live in Moscow, Idaho. I was surprised that they grew back and gave me more beans in the fall, too. Hopefully it wasn’t a fluke…

  195. Hi Garrett,

    I generally let my plants die and dry out in place, then gather the stalks for compost. I usually leave the roots in place undisturbed. I have never seen them regrow from the roots.

    If I search the Internet I don’t see any other mention of regrowing them like you describe. The discussion on this post has been going on for more than 4 years now, and you’re the first to mention this. It doesn’t mean it’s not possible, but I don’t think it’s commonly done.

    If anyone else has experiences with this, I’d love to hear the details…

  196. I tried finding this info online and wasn’t able to, too. Perhaps this is the first online documentation. Windsor fava beans will grow back if cut down near the ground after getting your harvest of pods.

    The key is to not let them senesce. Cut the plants while the are still green. There may still be flowers and pods which won’t mature if its too hot. Wait until all the ones that look like they’ll mature have matured.

    I feel bad cutting them with flowers and little pods, but I’m pretty sure they won’t mature.

    When do your plants start to turn brown? Are there still little pods on the plant that aren’t mature, or do they all eventually mature before the plant senesces?

    This year I planted 1 pound of seed and got a bit over 100 pounds of mature pods. I may get about 20 pounds in the fall if the favas grow back.

    I operate a CSA, so no, I’m not eating all the beans!

  197. Hi Garrett,

    I normally let the plants completely mature and die in place. I’ll have to try what you suggest sometime.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! I hope too if anyone else tries this they let all of us know how it goes.

  198. Patrick,

    Thanks for maintaining this page. I consulted it in late February when I was first planning my garden, and now I’m revisiting it after a successful fava harvest.

    I planted my favas from beans I bought in the bulk bins at the co-op. They were meant for eating, not for growing, but I figured they must be tasty if they made it to the store, and as long as they sprouted I’d be good. They’re extremely cheap if you don’t buy them as seed.

    I sprouted them first similar to how one would sprout any bean, by soaking them overnight and then leaving them on a moist paper towel for a week or two until they sprouted. Then I carefully planted the sprouts in my garden with the help of my two-year old son.

    The plants grew wondrously and topped out at about 4 feet tall. About a month ago most of them toppled over from the weight of all the plump pods. I’ve eaten many fresh and now I have more dried beans than I know what to do with. The pods are only now turning black en masse. I live in Olympia Washington and we had a very rainy and slow-starting summer.

    I think next year I’ll try a small bean variety because removing the skins from the beans really is a lot of work. I hear that the skins on the smaller varieties are less tough. I spent a whole hour peeling the skins the other day just to make a medium-sized bowl of ful medames!

    Anyway, thanks again!

  199. Hello – I grow green beans to eat but also to rotate/nitrogen fix the soil. Am fine with proper seed storage etc. and reasonably pleased with my crop – but have always wondered:

    In terms of nitrogen fixing: am I better off pulling the roots and composting the plants – or should I cut them at soil level – leave the roots -and then tunover the soil next spring before planting? I can litearaly see the nodules – would the “fixing” continue even after I cut the plants if I leave the roots in place?


  200. Hi CJ,

    It depends on where you want the nitrogen. The roots and root nodules are very rich in nitrogen. If you leave them in the ground, they will fertilize the next crop planted in that spot. If you pull them up and put them in the compost, they will enrich the compost. No matter what, you will likely end up leaving a lot of nitrogen behind in the ground.

    Once the plants are dead however, the nitrogen fixing stops, and leaving the roots in the ground won’t cause this to continue. The fixing takes place by taking nitrogen out of the air and fixing it into the ground, and with the top part of the plant is gone, it won’t be able to take anything out of the air.

  201. Hi Guys. Its great to see sites like these…every body commiserating. I wish to add a few things here. Been growing for a very long time. The old Italian fart of a farmer I learned from, grew some huge favas. Musta been 7 ft. tall.When he tilled them in, the soil was so lively it steamed. It was about a 2 acre piece that was to be artichokes and man, did they ever take off. Here is my take. For farming purposes of ‘putting something back’, favas, do some pretty cool things. First thing to know, is that if you want the highest return/acre of nitro, till your crp under just as the flowers turn to pods and no later. Obviously, you will get good friability and humus from the plant material, but the coolest part is that even after tilling in the plant material, the tilling is barely past 14-16 inches with plowing. So, what happens to the massive root systems that penetrate some 2-3ft deep? Remember, the other benefit of these plants is to break up a hard pan, and in doing so, when they are tilled in, their root systems that where left out of tilling depth, remain as a deep deposit of humus for future roots to tap into for nutrients and don’t forget the water holding capacity of all the material from the plants leaves and stocks being returned to the soil. Now, we know why farmers plant corn behind these cover crops. Deep roots, heavy nitro feeders and water dependant. My only dismay is that these seeds don’t last more than a year. I would like sometime to see if I could stretch the seed range by freezing for a season and a half, finding the ones that germinate, and develope those seeds as being the ‘ hardy boys’. My problem…somebody give this old fart organic farmer 10-15 acres with water within 70 miles of San Francisco, and I would be there in a heart beat. 650-355-0846.

  202. “The fixing takes place by taking nitrogen out of the air and fixing it into the ground, and with the top part of the plant is gone, it won’t be able to take anything out of the air.”

    I suspect this would be wrong; I dont think there is any mechanism for plants to take up nitrogen gas from the air, as they dont use it. However, you are correct in practice, in that the plants are required. So far as I know, the bacteria are co-dependent on the plants – the plants provide the bacteria with sugars in exchange for the nitrates. No plants, no carbon/energy source for the bacteria, no nitrogen. However, if there are stumps left, they may continue to feed the bacteria for a short while. There is generally plenty of air in soil providing nitrogen gas to the bacteria.

    Anyone growing Favas in the Bay Area, like me (and there seem to be many), plant early. As soon as it gets hot, they have problems setting pods. Runner beans do the same thing. This year I planted Feb 27 and only a few pods set per plant. (But then, it gets very hot here in the Almaden Valley in summer). I had hoped to get my beans in by now, but I cant find seed in any of 4 local garden centers so far…

  203. I’m in Bellingham, WA USA planning to grow favas hydroponically in a greenhouse. Is there anyone on the blog who’s done that and who’d like to consult, either here online or in private? We need to know lots of things: pot size (we’re planning to use Hydro-buckets from http://botanicalbrothers.com ), nutrients, pest control (lady bugs should work well in a closed environment, eh?) and more.

    Any help or referral to someone who’s grown these beans this way would be greatly appreciated.

  204. Oops, didn’t realize there was a rule against placing URLs in our posts. The missing one in the immediately preceding post from me is after the words, “Hydro-buckets from,” It’s botanicalbrothers dott comm.

  205. Hi David, I’m not sure what went wrong with the URL, there’s not supposed to be any problem posting them. Anyway, I added it to the post above, and will look at my configuration settings to see if I can fix the problem. Thanks for letting me know about it.

    The only thing I don’t allow are just URLs without any supporting discussion, or off-topic URLs. I delete these if anyone posts them, but if you leave a valid email address I’ll send an email to explain why.

  206. Patrick,

    Im a newbie urban farmer in Los Angeles. My fava beans are splenderous, all plants being 6′ tall and over. I’m just a little confused in regards to harvesting. If I want to dry the beans for eating, should I wait till the pods blacken and then pick? or is that only if I want seed for next year? Do I harvest when the pods turn shiny and dry the beans myself?



  207. Hi Dan,

    Seeds and dry beans are in effect the same thing. If you want either of these things, you should leave them on the plants until the pods turn black and are fully mature.

    The fresh beans in the green pods are actually immature, because that’s when it’s nice to eat them fresh. I don’t think it will work well if you just pick them at that stage and let them dry.

  208. Hello,

    We have grown fava beans for the first time and have just harvested the first ones that appeared to be roughly the size of the fava beans we see in the grocery store.

    I am surprised by comments that say fava beans are not heavy producers. We planted an area that is roughly 500-square feet. with the first half of the bean pods harvested, I would estimate they occupied roughly 12-gallons of pods, which yielded 2.5 gallons of shelled beans.

    My question is how do I dry them for later use? At the moment, we have the green, shelled beans laid on a screen. I am surprised how quickly they seem to be withering and drying.

    I’ve read comments here, (not all of them), that say the beans should be left on the plant until the pods turn black? Is this correct? (If this is correct, I can certainly leave the other half of the pods on the plants until they turn black.)

    After the pods turn black, then what should be done?

    Am I making a mistake by attempting to dry the ‘green’ fava beans that were harvested from green pods?

    Thank you.

  209. Hi Shelley,

    Thanks for the comment. That’s great you got such a good harvest! I don’t have an answer for all you questions, but I’ll try to help if I can.

    If you’re saving them for seed, I doubt it will work to dry green beans. They are probably too undeveloped, and probably won’t be viable. Having said this, I’ve been proved wrong before. I might depend on how mature they were when you picked them and on the variety.

    If you are saving them to eat, I’m not sure. It would be really nice if you reported back here to let us know how it went! In particular, it would be nice to know the variety and in a rough sense how mature you think they were when you harvested the. Also how long you stored them for successfully would be interesting to know too.

    My suggestion would be to leave the rest of the pods on the plants until they turn black.

    After they turn black, you just harvest them the same way. It will be easier to remove the pods. You should lay them out to dry, and if you think there is any risk of mold, rinsing them first in a dilute bleach solution would be a good idea.

    Fava beans don’t like to be stored in a completely closed container. They like to breath a bit, but you should also protect them from getting too dry if you want to replant them and you live in a dry climate.

    Dried fava beans freeze well, and will then probably tolerate a completely closed container. In fact freezing them will ‘pasteurize’ them, and help kill off insect eggs that may be hiding in them. It’s a good idea to put them in the freezer for a few days at least, after they are completely dry.

    Good luck!

  210. We live in Vancouver BC, Canada. We grew to love fava beans after a spring trip to Italy. As an experiment, I planted some in containers last October. The plants came up beautifully but froze when the weather got colder. What would be the optimal time to plant in our area in order to avoid this?

    I replanted around May 1st and they are just coming up now. I am hoping that this was not too late.

  211. Hi Reva,

    Sorry you lost your plants. If this winter was unusually cold for you like it was here in Amsterdam, it might be worth another try sometime. I think you have a similar climate, and they can often be overwintered here.

    It also depends a bit on the variety, some are more cold tolerant than others, and in fact some are bred specially for overwintering.

    When spring planted, fava beans are normally planted as soon as you can dig the ground. For us this is usually February or March, maybe the same with you?

    Yes, it might be a little late to plant them now, but if you have cool weather you might get lucky… Good luck!

  212. Wow, this is an incredible blog with great comments. I’ve learned so much already! This year there was a fava transplant available at my local nursery. But as the weather was already starting to warm up, I decided to plant just one hoping to save seeds for my fall cover crops. This is my first fava plant. It’s about 3 feet tall, flowered once and has 3 large bean pods growing. Questions:

    – How much of the top should I chop off to encourage more bean pods?
    – Do you think there will be more pods, if I don’t pick these 3 until they turn black?
    – How many pods should I expect from a single plant?


  213. Hi Alexis,

    Thanks for the nice comment, and good luck with your fava beans!

    You don’t need to take very much off the top of the plant, just pinch off the newest growth with your fingers, about an inch (or couple of cm). You normally do this after the plant has sent out a few rounds of flowers, perhaps 3-4 of them. After you do this, the plant won’t produce any new flowers and will instead put it’s resources into developing pods.

    To answer your second question, once you pinch off the top of the plant, it won’t be able to produce any new flowers or pods, so you won’t get any beyond your initial 3.

    [update] I hope you come back to read this. I just remembered that many people report success cutting the plants down completely, and letting them regrow for another crop. If you do this after harvesting the 3 pods, you may get more. I don’t normally do this myself.

    The number of pods per plant can depend on a lot of different things, like you climate and the variety you’re growing. 3-5 is a reasonable and normal number, but it’s also possible to get more than that if the conditions are right. I would consider less than 3 a little disappointing.

  214. Thank you for this post! I am in my second season of growing fava beans. I grew Windsor last year and a different variety that is escaping me right now. I preferred the Windsor. But, I digress.

    I loved, loved, loved the fresh favas and made them in many different ways, but had my heart set on drying the beans for fuul this year. I’d left them all on the plants until today. They are black and shriveled. Do I continue to let them all dry out IN THE SHELL or should I take them out of the shell/pod and let the beans dry out on a baking sheet on the windowsill or something?

    Finally, if I’m keeping them to use as dried beans should I still freeze them as you’ve mentioned? Again, is that in or out of the pod? Also, a few that I took off the vine today are still a tiny bit green. Shall I let them dry in the pods a bit more, too?

    Thanks for this all fava all the time post. I loved reading the comments and learned a lot (I’ll cut the tops off next year). Also, I’ve had the Windsor’s resprout even without cutting them down. As they were dying the new growth came up for a second round…

  215. Hi Lisa,

    Your enemy now is dampness, which can cause the beans to get moldy. If you’re in an area with a dry climate, I suggest leaving the pods on the plant to dry out because the sun will help protect the beans.

    If you’re in a damp climate like me, or if you have already taken them off the plant, I would take the beans out of the pods as quickly as possible and put them some place airy to dry out. Once they are out of the pods, I would avoid placing them in direct sunlight.

    Rinsing the beans in a weak solution of bleach can help reduce mold, and might save the beans if they have already started to get moldy. Watch out for black spots on the beans that emerge from the inside.

    A little bit of green on the pods is normal, and shouldn’t make a difference one way or another. As long as they’re mostly black it’s good enough.

  216. Thank you so much for your quick response! It’s very helpful.

    I’m in Los Angeles and had taken the pods off the plants that had completely died. I have two or three more stalks that are still green and producing pods for whatever reason so, I’ll let them die, and then take those pods, then. In the meantime, it’s really good to know to take the ones I have already harvested yesterday out of the pods. I would have probably let them continue to dry out in them had I not found your website.

    Do you still think I should freeze them once they are dry or can I just store them in an open air jar in a cool closet and use them as dried beans when I want?

    Thanks again. Lisa

  217. Hi Lisa,

    I’m sorry, I didn’t finish answering your question.

    If you plan to eat the dried beans within the next few months, I wouldn’t bother freezing them. Fava beans don’t however like to be stored unfrozen in a completely airtight container, but I think you already realize that.

    Freezing fava beans is the best for long term storage, but freezing them carries risks. If they are not completely dried out the water in them may expand and burst or damage the beans as they freeze. In addition, drying them out too much can damage them too.

    If you are going to freeze them, what I suggest is letting them dry out in the open air for several weeks. No forced air, no heat, no direct sunlight, just spread out to dry. When you think they have completely dried this way, try freezing a couple of beans in a closed container for a few days then thawing them. If they seem undamaged, then freeze all of the beans in the same way.

    Note that in the freezer fava beans should be in a completely airtight container. Plastic is not very good for freezing fava beans, because it’s a little porous. The best is glass jars with a lid sealed with rubber; canning jars or just supermarket pickle, jelly or other jars all work equally well.

  218. Hi Patrick, Thanks for replying to my comment! Now I won’t be disappointed with only 3 pods (which is how it’s looking). It seems like I’ll be hunting for beans to plant this fall since 3 pods won’t get me very far. I’ll try cutting it down for a regrowth opportunity too since there is nothing to loose by experimenting. Thanks for the tips!

  219. Thank you Patrick for your very prompt reply to my posting of May 17/10. After reading your response

    “Yes, it might be a little late to plant them now, but if you have cool weather you might get lucky… Good luck!”

    I gave up on the thought of having fava beans this year. However the weather has been consistently cool and rather wet. We have yet to achieve a temperature of more than 19C. What is the optimal temperature range for the period of germination to harvest of the green beans?

  220. Hi Reva,

    In general fava beans like it best if they are planted as early in the spring as you can dig the ground. Then, as the weather warms, they slowly begin to grow. If you plant them this way, they can usually tolerate short periods of warm weather. This is also what makes fava beans a spring vegetable, and in general you can’t buy them in season other times of the year. Probably the numbers of hours of daylight the plants get has something to do with it too.

    If you plant fava beans later, they may still grow, but the chances are they will do better if the weather is cooler.

    Warmer weather makes the plants grow faster, which isn’t healthy for them.

    I’ve never tried to grow fava beans in warm weather myself, but my guess is once the days are consistently above 20C (68F) it’ll be pretty hard to grow them.

    Maybe someone else has more experiences with this? I’d like to hear.

  221. I want to grow fava beens. I came from Rome Italy and they say that they have the BEST of the BEST FAVA BEENS. I HAVE FRESH BEENS I would like to know how to be able to plant them? If you can help me. Thanks Sergio

  222. Hi Sergio,

    I’ll bet you have great fava beans in Rome! I’m going to come over to your house for dinner tomorrow, okay?

    About planting them, I don’t have very good news. I don’t think it will work, because for seeds the fava beans need to mature on the plant. I don’t think fresh fava beans are mature enough.

    You could try to just plant them, or maybe put a few into wet kitchen paper and see if they sprout.

  223. Hi Patrick,

    I would like to grow fava beans as a cover crop and some for eating/seed saving. I live in southern Oregon where winter temperatures will get as low as 10 degrees f. I think this means I cannot reliably over winter them. My local ag extension mentioned planting them in February. If planted in February when would be the best time to turn them under for a green manure? If I keep some for eating how soon could I harvest to make space for another crop? June? Do you prefer any specific varieties? I have read ‘Iants Yellow’ is a delicious variety. Thanks Brian.

  224. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Yes, 10F is pretty cold for fava beans, but it depends on a lot of things. For example if the plants have emerged yet, and how much snow cover there is. It also depends on the variety, as some are more winter hardy than others. I wouldn’t assume overwintering in your climate is impossible, but it might take a little trial and error to get it working. The advice of planting in Feb also sounds good to me, and is probably more reliable than overwintering.

    If you want to turn the plants under you should do it when they are very young, and not more than a few inches high, probably April or May. If the plants are too woody than you should compost them first before putting into the ground. I personally don’t usually turn fava beans under, because I find this a bit of a waste.

    I normally let them grow and either eat them or save seeds, compost the plants, then put the compost back into the ground. In this way they are both useful for seeds or food, and useful for enriching the ground. Also over the years I’ve decided in general it’s better to use no-dig techniques, and this is of course in conflict with digging in a green manure crop.

    Ianto’s Yellow? I’ve never grown it, but heard good things about it. It was grown and introduced by Alan Kapuler, who lives near you in Corvallis, so would probably be well suited to your climate.

    I live in Holland, and the varieties available here are ones you probably can’t buy, and are probably better suited for our local climate. I think it’s better if you look for varieties locally and ask other near you what their favorites are.

    It’s difficult to say when you would be able to plant the next crop after the favas. Heirloom varieties of fava will produce over a period of time, and stop when the weather gets very warm. This might be in June, but could also be in August. I think you can count on August for sure, but otherwise it might be a bit of a judgment call, and you might need to weigh your need to get the next crop in with your desire to get everything possible out of your fava plants first.

    Good luck. I hope this helps.

  225. Sunrose, if you are still interested in eating sprouted fava beans, there is a delicious egyptian soup, called Nabbet, try googling the name and see if you can find a recipe, it is really delicious

  226. Thinking about planting favas before a crop of corn. Is it ok to plant the corn right in with the maturing favas? We have had a mild winter, planning on planting the favas now.

  227. Hi Ian,

    Did you plant your rye last fall, and is it still growing?

    The rye will have a very dense root system that’s probably too much for the favas. The rye will go to seed and die off mid to late summer, and you probably won’t be able to plant directly into it until then. To be completely safe, I wouldn’t count on being able to plant directly into the still living rye cover until fall.

    You might be able to skip the fava beans, and just do corn after the rye is finished? You can probably plant this directly into the rye cover, if you pull the rye back a little by hand where you put the corn seeds in? This is just a guess, I haven’t tried this. It’s possible the rye won’t finish before it’s time to plant the corn.

    Otherwise, you probably need to turn the rye under first.

    As far as following the favas with corn, botanically speaking it should work, they should make good companion plants if they aren’t too crowded. You will need to think about adequate spacing, and you do need to consider the mature fava plants are big and may shade out the young corn plants. It might take a little trial and error to get working right…

    Otherwise, if you have just planted your rye, you could wait until fall to plant favas into the rye cover, then try planting the corn into the favas the following summer. Or is this what you were suggesting in the first place? I think this would probably work. but again might take a little trial and error.

    Hope this helps…

  228. Thanks. Yes the rye is still growing now. I wanted to use favas now to add nitrogen. For the corn. Illjust turn a block of the rye over. Will the nitrogen from the favas be available that quickly?

  229. Hi Ian,

    The life-cycle of rye is about a year. What can be a little handy is it’s 6 months out of sync from most other things because it’s fall planted. Rye has a wonderful, deep, root system that brings lot’s of important nutrients to the surface and harbors lots of soil life like worms and insects. The roots can go to 6ft or more. It’s a great cover crop, and it’s root system is so dense it chokes out most other weeds, but for that reason you can’t plant into it until it’s life-cycle is complete or you turn it under.

    Yes, the nitrogen will be available from the favas for the corn, but it might be better to use a warm weather bean like a normal pole bean, maybe even a ‘cornfield bean’.

    The reason for this is there are two ways the corn can get nitrogen from beans. The first is, as is the case with the favas, is the beans can grow first and the corn can use the leftover nitrogen. The second way, as would be the case with a warm weather bean grown at the same time, would be the roots co-mingle and the beans would fed the corn while they both grew.

    This second way, where the roots co-mingle, is more efficient and overall more nitrogen will be fixed into the ground. Also, if everything goes right, you don’t need poles for the beans, because the beans can climb the corn. This is the principle behind Three Sisters. Like I’ve said before, this can take some trial and error to get working right.

    Good luck, whatever you do.

  230. Hello Patrick,
    What a perfectly wonderful site, I am so glad Iput in a question regarding Fava beans as I was lucky enough to hit on you. You have been helping gardners with fava information for so many years and you answer so quickly, I cannot believe it You have to be the ‘Fava Guru'(?) I have planted for the first time Fava’s and perhaps wrongly have planted peas fairly close, I am now reading in some places this is a no-no, is this correct? I hope not as there is nothing I can do about it now. I also notice you mention ‘The Three Sisters’ I did that last year and did not have one single bean, no I lie, as I did get one pod, but the corn certainly was not as high as an elephants eye, the tallest stalk was about 10 inches and the third recommended was cucumbers which did give me some ugly deformed type of cucs. that will be the end of experimenting like that for me. Have you had good luck with that kind of planting? if so please tell me what you did.

  231. Hi Olivia,

    No, I’ve never gotten 3 sisters to work very well either.

    Most of the problems I’ve had have been pretty obvious and basic ones. For example having a corn variety that didn’t grow high enough to support the beans. Another year I was in a new garden, and I didn’t realize I had chosen a particularly weedy spot with poor soil, so everything got overtaken by weeds and didn’t grow well. That time I also planted everything too close together, and it wasn’t possible to get into the bed to pull weeds. Also one time I waited too long to plant the beans, and they got shaded by the other plants.

    I think if you think through everything, and plan it carefully it should work:

    Make sure you have grown beans on that spot recently, because beans require bacteria in the ground to do well.

    Make sure not to crowd the plants, and allow access for weeding.

    Make sure to grow a tall variety of corn.

    Make sure to choose varieties suited to your climate and local growing conditions.

    Make sure to choose a vine squash or other curcubita, and not the bush type.

    Make sure to use pole beans, and not the bush type.

    These things might sound obvious, but I think it all mostly comes down to planning it right.

    I hope this helps…

  232. The secret for good been eating is to harvest the pods just as the beans start to push against the pod wall. The ‘skin’ over the bean will be very thin and can be eaten without objections. If you wait too long, the skin is tougher and as many have remarked, not so enjoyable.
    As with many vegetables, the younger the better!

    I prepare my beans by sauté-ing them in salted butter with some garlic scapes. When the bright green colour emerges through the skin, they are ready. What a treat!

  233. I planted favas in mid April in New Jersey, was that too late? They grew about 8-10″ but no flowers yet.

  234. Hi Luis,

    Sorry for the slow reply. Yes, they are a little late, but all is not lost. Try to get them in earlier next year, but don’t give up on these yet.

    Two months is probably a little early to expect flowers. Give them a few more weeks at least.

    Good luck.

  235. I have a beautifully tall crop of favas but they don’t seem to have beans in the hugh pods. (I am in interior Alaska with 24 hrs of daylight which is now declining. Dark at 11:00 pm.
    I did finally think to cut out the tops and to fertilize like a pregnant woman. Am I on the right track? Am I impatient? Planted them in late May and our short but warm weather is past. Is the cool weather coming going to help them set beans? Penny

  236. Hi Penny,

    Sorry for the delay in replying. I think you’re being a little impatient. Depending on the variety and time of year, fava beans need at least 90 days to mature. Yours have only been in the ground 2 months.

    Also, assuming there’s enough organic material in the ground, fava beans don’t normally need fertilizer. They are nitrogen fixing plants, and so can usually provide their own fertilizer.

    Good luck!

  237. Thanks, from Penny in Alaska. Yes, 2 months of double days in the midnight sun make hugh plants. Next year I will plan for the large size and stake them and top them. I’ll let you know how this goes. Thanks again.

  238. I will be planting Fava beans for the first time next month. I plan to harvest them and then brush hog the plants and till them into the soil. Then plant corn. My question is do I have to allow the mature pods to blacken on the plant or can I harvest them and dry them? If they have to dry on the plant how long does this process take? Thank you.

  239. Hi Eslie,

    I’m sorry for the slow reply.

    If the pods don’t at least start to blacken, they won’t be fully mature. It depends a little what you plan to do with them, but probably you need to wait until they blacken. It depends a little on the variety, but generally count on about 75-90 days, starting after the weather has gotten a little warm.

    The plants themselves will be very woody and mature after the pods blacken. Even if you grind them up with a brush hog, it might still be a good idea to wait a month or so for the plant material to start decomposing before planting the corn.

    Fresh plant material dug into the soil can act like mulch, and slow the growth of plants by reducing the available nitrogen in the soil. As an alternative you could compost the plant material someplace else for later use, instead of turning it under.

  240. Greetings! I’m farming in NW Washington State, near Canada. I’ve begun to harvest a lovely cover crop of fava beans, and plan to replant the seeds in the fall. The pods are not maturing at the same time – on most plants, 1/2 the pods are nice & dark & drying out, while the other 1/2 of the pods are still green. If I harvest the green pods, will the seed be viable for replanting? If I wait for all the pods to start to dry out, will the pods start to split? Thank you for your thoughtful advice.

  241. Hi VJ,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I suspect the answer to your question depends partly on variety and local growing conditions, so I can’t be completely sure.

    In any event, the green pods will probably not be viable for replanting.

    My experience with the mature pods is they tend not to ‘shatter’ (release their seeds). They do usually split a little, dry in place, but continue to hold their seeds. If you do see the pod start to split, then try to harvest them at that moment, the physical activity of harvest might cause the seeds to shake loose. As they dry out, the pods tend to hold on to the seeds a little tighter.

    I hope this helps. Please come back and share your experiences!

  242. I grew my fava beans for their nitrogen fixing property and to have seeds to grow favas in a new garden next fall.
    1) I just harvested the big beans while they had just a little black on them. If I take the seeds out of the shell, take off the individual skin and then store them in an open paper bag and innoculate them for germination this fall, will the seeds grow new plants, or have I compromised them?
    2) I plan to cut off the plants at ground level, put the cuttings on the compost pile, leave the roots in the ground for a month, then plant vegetable plants where the beans were growing. Will this work or is there a better thing to do?
    3) I used my clippers to cut the beans off. Do the clippers need to be sanitized?

  243. Hi Kathy,

    1) It sounds good! If the seeds are bad they usually develop dark spots. If your seeds look good, they probably are.

    2) This sounds good too. Waiting a month probably isn’t necessary, but can’t hurt.

    3) Good hygiene is never a bad thing, and cleaning your tools frequently is a good thing to do. As far as I’m aware however, the fava beans or even beans in general don’t have any special disease risks.

    Good luck with everything!

  244. I hope you are still available for fava information as your site by far is full of the best info! I have just been gifted with 40+ pounds of fresh fava beans still in their pods. I have cooked favas many times in the past for immediate eating with garlic, olive oil, dill etc. But with this many I am interested in what it would take to possibly make flour from them.

    My questions are these, if you know:

    1. Is this even possible to do from fresh favas that haven’t dried out on the vine?

    2. Would I need to dry them out in a dehydrator first?

    3. If I can dehydrate them to make flour, do I need to blanch them to get them out of the skins before dehydrating?

    I realize these questions are of a more culinary nature rather than propagation interests but I thought maybe you’d be the one to ask. Thanks so much for any light on the subject.

  245. Dear Andrea,

    Thanks for leaving the comment.

    I’ve never made flour from fava beans before.

    If I look at the description on this page:


    I would suggest doing what it says. Blanch the beans, remove the skins, then dry them out, possibly in a dehydrator if you have one.

    If they were fully mature seeds, I don’t think you’d need to blanch them, but because they are green I think they need to be blanched. Most green vegetables need to be blanched, with only a few exceptions (like onions, herbs, leaf vegetables).

    I think one of the main issues you’ll have is shelf life. I think it’s important to either use the flour quickly or freeze it. Normal flour is made with mature seeds or grains, but this is essentially made from fresh vegetables.

    Consider not putting all your eggs in one basket. For example, eat some fresh, try some without blanching or removing the skins, etc. In this way you won’t lose them all if something goes wrong, and might learn for next time.

    Good luck!

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