What are Fava Beans?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Fava beans are one of the oldest plants under cultivation, and they were eaten in ancient Greece and Rome. Despite the name, fava beans are a member of the pea family, though they are also known as broad beans, pigeon beans, horse beans, and windsor beans. They are popular in Mediterranean cuisine, with many summer dishes celebrating the seasonal bean, although they are also dried for winter use. Fava beans have a distinct flavor and creamy texture that makes them a great addition to a wide variety of dishes.

Fava beans in the pod.
Fava beans in the pod.

When intended for consumption, fava beans are planted in February and March to mature through the summer, with their peak coming in July. The beans grow on bushy plants with tapering leaves, yielding anywhere from 25 to 50 pods per plant. The pods resemble pea pods in shape, although they are much larger and lined with a pillowy white material that protects the seeds inside.

Fava beans have about 13 grams of protein per serving.
Fava beans have about 13 grams of protein per serving.

Fava beans are also used as a cover crop to protect delicate soil, because they grow quickly and produce a great deal of lush foliage. In addition, like most legumes, fava beans are nitrogen fixers, and they replenish the soil with this vital nutrient. Many farmers plant fava beans and plow them back into the field after the growth has peaked for mulch.

Fava beans should be kept away from direct sunlight.
Fava beans should be kept away from direct sunlight.

They grow best in warm climates, although they also tolerate cooler weather. They do not tolerate extremely hot temperatures well, however, and should be planted in an area of the garden that will protect them from direct sunlight. If sprouted in the greenhouse, the seedlings should be planted 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) apart, as they will grow into large bushes later. If planting the seeds directly, they should be buried approximately 3 inches (7 cm) below ground, and thinned after they sprout in seven to 14 days. In four to six months, the beans will have matured for harvest and eating.

Fava beans should be shelled and peeled before eating. The outer peel on the beans, while technically edible, is very woody in texture and detracts from the buttery feel of the inner bean. In addition, fava beans should be cooked before serving because of favism, a rare reaction to fava beans found among people of Mediterranean descent. Little risk has been found from eating cooked beans, but some diners may have an allergic reaction to raw or unpeeled favas.

Fava beans are great steamed and served with olive oil, salt, and lemon. They can also be added to soups and pastas, ground into purees, grilled, or enjoyed in artichoke risotto. The fresh beans can be found in Italian markets beginning in late May, and they will be tasty through August.

Fava beans are nitrogen fixers, so many farmers plow them back into the soil after growth has peaked.
Fava beans are nitrogen fixers, so many farmers plow them back into the soil after growth has peaked.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Post no. 33: Because everything tastes better with meat.


I seriously don't understand why anybody would take something so good for you and totally ruin it with meat!


I just made them for the first time. I soaked them overnight and cooked the, in the pressure cooker for 10 minutes with pork broth and hocks. Easy, hearty, and delicious! My 2 year old is gobbling them up!


Help! I just sauteed fava beans, added chicken stock and then noticed these little brown things pop up in the mixture. Is this from the favabean?


@anon298206-- It does cause some gas but not as bad as some other beans, probably because it's not really a bean.

I can't eat red or white beans at all because they cause too much bloating and gas. But fava beans are not that bad, although they do cause some bloating.

The only bad part about fava beans is they're so tasteless. Even when I cook it with other ingredients, it's not a very flavorful bean.


@ZipLine-- I like to make rice pilav with fava beans. I boil the fava beans first. Then, I cook ground beef in some oil, add washed Basmati or jasmine rice along with the fava beans. I add water and let the rice cook.

It's a very easy, delicious recipe. It's also one of those dishes that's a meal on its own because it has both carbohydrates, protein and fiber. I eat this fava bean rice pilav alone or with plain yogurt.


What's a simple dish that can be made with fava beans?

I have some frozen fava beans in the freezer but I have no idea what to do with them. I'm not the best cook, so the simpler the recipe, the better.


Do fava beans cause gas? I mean, being peas and all, maybe they don't. I'm trying to find a bean that doesn't give me gas because all other beans do -- real bad. And it's awful.


Are fava beans acidic? They are listed with other

foods that I am not supposed to eat as I have too much acid in by body.


Can you eat fava beans while taking blood thinners?


What cut of meat would go well with these? Could anyone recommend a wine?


it doesn't matter if raw or cooked, people suffering with favism should never eat broad beans. never!


Fava beans are dangerous for G6PD children.


You can also get them canned in Mediterranean stores (Lebanese) and are called Foul Mudammas

Here's a great recipe:

1 can of fava (foul) beans (you can rinse the beans if you like)

1 1/2 to 2 lemons (juice)

1 crushed garlic clove

2 diced tomatoes

Chopped Spring onions

Salt, pepper, cayenne to taste

Sprinkle of cumin

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Chopped cilantro (coriander) or parsley mixed in before serving

Serve with pita bread

This is a great family recipe that makes a delicious refreshing dish! Enjoy!


I grew up eating roasted fava beans in Ethiopia every evening while i was studying. Many people, especially children, ate them as a snack between lunch and dinner with milk or barley tea. Some families in Ethiopia don't allow their kids to drink any tea or coffee, i think because it is addictive. Instead they toasted barley until brown and boiled it like tea and added honey.

One method for preparing fava beans, is to soak them in the water until they start growing and wash them and boil them with salt. The way to serve is depend on your taste. While i like them just like that, my brother likes them with butter and paprika. We also use fresh corn in spring time.

A second method is to toast the beans until they get brown (not like burning) mid toast then boil them with water and salt. When they are cooked but chewy, serve them as a snack.

I think it is a healthy snack for kids if they like it.


#5, I have not heard of Chai nuts, but Dee's Nuts are a great substitute and are really good for you. You can eat Dee's nuts anytime of year, just ask your local grocer if he has Dee's nuts.


Go to Wal-Mart and ask for fresh fava Beans from Melissa's. They are now in season.


LOL #6. Just going to say that.


*I* would like to know why they are so expensive. Because they're delicious? Because they're finicky to grow and labor intensive to harvest? Because they're reserved for the "elite"?


Are fava beans dicots or monocots?


Such a versatile crop, good not only for human consumption, but very helpful in farming with its high level of nitrogen and a root system that helps loosen heavy, compact soil.

It is also a good vegetable that a home gardener might grow at home.


Can anyone tell me whether fava beans grow in South Asia (India)? If so, what are they called there? - BDR.


how do you peel a fava bean?


They are best served with a nice chianti!!


Has anybody heard of Chai Nuts? It is supposed to be good for your well being as you age.


Can anyone tell me how to roast fava beans?


Can anyone tell me how I can find out more about *Farah?* I am told that it is a grain related to fava beans.


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