Broad Bean (Vicia faba major)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Broad Bean
Vicia faba major

A fibre is obtained from the stems.

The burnt stems are rich in potassium and can be used in making soap.

  • Medicinal Use

    The seedpods are diuretic and lithontripic[7].

  • Edible Use

    Broad bean seeds are very nutritious and are frequently used as items of food. There are, however, some potential problems to their use if they are consumed in large quantities[7] – see the notes above on toxicity.

    The immature seeds can be eaten raw when they are small and tender, as they grow older they can be cooked as a vegetable[2, 7, 16, 132, 183]. They have a very pleasant floury taste[K].

    The young pods can be cooked as a vegetable, though they quickly become fibrous[183] and also have a hairy coating inside that can become unpleasant as the pods get larger[K].

    Mature seeds can be eaten cooked as a vegetable or added to soups etc[2, 7, 16, 183]. They are best soaked for 12 – 24 hours prior to cooking in order to soften them and reduce the cooking time[K]. They will also become more nutritious this way[K]. The flavour is mild and pleasant with a floury texture[K]. They can also be dried and ground into a flour for use in making bread etc with cereal flours[183]. The seed can also be fermented to make ‘tempeh'[183].The seed can be sprouted before being cooked[183]. Popped seeds can be salted and eaten as a snack or roasted like peanuts[183].

    Young leaves – cooked. They are very nutritious and can be used like spinach[105, 183].

  • Cautionary Notes

    Although often used as an edible seed, there are reports that eating the seed of this plant can cause the disease 'Favism' in susceptible people[7, 76]. Inhaling the pollen can also cause the disease[7, 218]. Favism, which is a severe haemolytic anaemia due to an inherited enzymatic deficiency[218], only occurs in cases of excessive consumption of the raw seed (no more details are given[K]) and when the person is genetically inclined towards the disease[7, 213]. About 1% of Caucasians and 15% of Negroids are susceptible to the disease[218].

Cultivation & Habitat

Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in situ in succession from late winter until early summer. Germination should take place in about 7 – 10 days. The earlier sowings should be of suitably hardy varieties such as the ‘Longpods’ whilst later sowings can be of the tastier varieties such as the ‘Windsors’. By making fresh sowings every 3 weeks you will have a continuous supply of fresh young seeds from early summer until early autumn. If you want to grow the beans to maturity then the seed needs to be sown by the middle of spring. You may need to protect the seed from the ravages of mice. Another sowing can be made in middle to late autumn. This has to be timed according to the area where the plants are being grown. The idea is that the plants will make some growth in the autumn and be perhaps 15 – 20cm tall by the time the colder part of winter sets in. As long as the winter is not too severe, the plants should stand well and will grow away rapidly in the spring to produce an earlier crop. The plants will also be less likely to be attacked by blackfly. Make sure you choose a suitably hardy variety for this sowing.
Prefers a fairly heavy loam but succeeds in a sunny position in most soils that are well-drained[1, 200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Dislikes dry conditions according to some reports[87, 200], whilst another says that it is drought tolerant once established[132]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 to 7[200]. Broad beans are often cultivated for their edible seed and sometimes also as a green manure crop. There are two main types, the ‘longpod’ beans are the more hardy and can be sown in the autumn in cool temperate areas, whilst ‘windsor’ beans, which are considered to be finer flavoured, are less tolerant of the cold and so are best sown in spring[132]. The ideal temperature range in the growing season is between 18 and 27¡c, at higher temperatures the flowers are often aborted[200]. The autumn sown varieties are more susceptible to ‘chocolate spot’ fungus, this problem can be alleviated by the addition of potash to the soil[87]. Black fly can be a major problem in late spring. Autumn sown crops are less likely to be affected. Pinching out the soft tips of the plants, one they are tall enough and are beginning to flower, can reduce the problem since the blackfly always start on the soft shoots and then spread to the older stems. Grows well with carrots, cauliflowers, beet, cucumber, cabbages, leeks, celeriac, corn and potatoes, but is inhibited by onions, garlic and shallots[18, 20]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200]. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.
Long cultivated for its seed, the original habitat is obscure.

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*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.