This is the forgotten legume of the cool season even though they are easy to grow. Here is detailed guide on how to grow broad beans in Central Texas.
What are broad-beans?
Other names for broad beans are fava beans or hoarse beans. They in a legume family. They are widely cultivated in the Mediterranean Region for human consumption; in the USA they are mostly grown as winter ground covers.
Broad bean plants are bright green and can reach five feet in height. They grow during the cool season and start flowering around February. The flowers are pleasantly fragrant and attract a lot of pollinators. The pods are about three to five inches long. Its skin is thick with cotton-like inner padding holding the beans.
The beans are very similar to lima beans but slightly bigger. Most people consume the bean itself without the pod. In North African regions, fava beans are considered a mange-tout vegetable, where the whole pod is eaten skin and bean.
Nutritional value of broad beans
According to Healthline.com, broad beans are highly nutritious and have numerous health benefits. It may be an undervalued vegetable with all the positive characteristics it holds and the lack of its presence in the American kitchen.
Fava beans are incredibly nutritious and an excellent source of soluble fiber, protein, folate, manganese, copper, and several other micronutrients.Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD
According to Healthline nutrition experts, eating broad beans regularly may have tremendous health benefits. It may prevent Parkinson’s disease, help prevent birth defects, boost immunity, aid weight loss, and lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
However, research is limited and more studies on the effects of fava beans on human health are needed.healthline
When to grow broad beans in Central Texas?
Broad beans are cool-season crops. They grow all winter for spring harvest. Plant them in early fall, October through November, or early winter, December through January. The best time, however, for central Texas, is early fall to achieve great production before the plants succumb to spring pests and diseases.
How to grow broad beans in Central Texas?
Varieties to consider for Central Texas
To get a considerable harvest, it is important to use the right variety. For Central Texas, it is key to choose a variety that is less susceptible to rust and black fly. Broad Windsor or Vroma are two reliable varieties with great production and fewer issues.
Direct sow vs seed starting
Broad beans are forgiving seeds and easy to deal with. Direct sow in the ground or start them ahead in little pots, there should be no problem. The most important thing is to plant them out when temperatures are lower than 75F(25C) during the day and below 65F(16C) at night.
How to plant broad beans?
1- Seed starting in pots
- Soak the seeds in water overnight.
- Seed starting containers should big enough for the bean, no less than 2 cubic inches.
- Fill the container with premoistened seed starting soil.
- Insert a hole as big as the bean.
- Place the seed with the lip facing up.
- Cover with soil and water.
- Keep the soil moist but not soaking wet to prevent rot.
- Transplant your seedlings into the ground when they reach two inches in height.
2- Direct sow broad beans
- Soak the seeds overnight.
- Insert holes in the planting area, 4- 6 inches apart. If planting in rows, make them 6-8 inches apart, and the seeds 4 inches apart.
- Place the seeds twice their size deep.
- Cover with soil then water generously.
- Protect your seeds from rodents by covering them with a mesh cover.
- Provide support when the seedlings reach ten inches in height.
The best location to grow broad beans
The rule of thumb is that all flowering and fruiting plants need full sun exposure. That means they need more than six hours of direct light. Fava beans, however, will grow almost everywhere.
Provide a minimum of four hours of direct sun, and your broad beans will be fine. They may grow at a slower pace, but they will still produce. They may also grow skinnier stems, which will require extra support.
In general, there are no special requirements for soil for growing legumes. It just needs to be well-draining to prevent seed and root rot. Legumes are nitrogen fixers, which means they make their own Nitrogen to grow. For this reason, they are also grown as a ground cover to give the soil some rest.
Being a cool-season crops, broad beans will survive on rain water unless drought is in effect. Constant moisture eliminates stress and the plants will grow healthier and stronger. Provide supplemental water before the soil goes bone-dry.
Fava beans, like their legume cousins, do not need any extra fertilization. In fact, feeding them may cause stress which may halt production.
Do broad bean plants fix nitrogen in the soil?
Legumes have a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria. The Rhizobia bacteria invade the legumes’ roots and feed on the nutrients and energy provided. In return, this bacteria fixes the nitrogen found in the air for the plant to use.
The multiplication of bacteria causes nodules to form on the roots; this is where Nitrogen is stored. Legumes use this Nitrogen during their growth. Extra Nitrogen is released only when the plants are dead and turned into the soil.
The only way for the soil to benefit from Nitrogen leftover from legume plants is by leaving their roots in the ground at the end of the season. Either chop down the plants and turn them into the soil or cut them at the base.
How long does it take for broad beans to set fruit?
Broad beans, planted early fall, should start flowering around February. First blooms appear at the bottom of the plant then they will start spreading through the top. The blooms last a day or two before falling and allowing the pod to form.
When is the broad bean ready for harvest?
There is no rule to when to harvest broad beans. It all depends on your personal preferences. For those who eat the whole pod, it is best to harvest young pods. They are soft and less stringy when cooked. For those who consume the beans, allow them to swell and reach full size.
Do I need to protect broad beans from freeze?
The charm of broad beans is that they are carefree crops. They withstand frost and freeze like a charm. Even if they get frost burn, they do recover nicely. You may protect them by using row-cover if a blizzard is in the forecast, or the freeze is expected to last more than a few days.
Broad bean pests and diseases
Black flies or aphids are the main pests that attack broad beans. They congregate at the tips of the new growth, and a bad infestation can hinder production. Here how to deal with them:
- Plant in early fall to escape the heat of spring, which is the prime time for aphids infestations.
- Pinch off the tips as soon as you notice the black flies to prevent further spread.
Rust is a fungal disease that manifests in a form of reddish spots. It affects the stem, leaves, and pods of the bean plants. There is not much to do except for some good cultivation practices, such as crop rotation and discarding affected plants.
Fortunately, rust attacks broad beans at the end of the season. Try to harvest as many beans as you can before getting rid of the plant. Discard the plant or burn it to prevent further spread in the garden.
How to support broad beans?
Fava beans are soft-stemmed plants. They can get knocked over easily by wind and when loaded with pods. It is a good idea to provide some support early in their growth stage.
There are many ways to support broad beans. Some gardeners like to weave twine through the stems to hold them upright. This method is great when you plant broad beans in long rows.
In a home garden, planting broad beans in blocks is more efficient. In the picture shown above, a four by four raised bed is dedicated to broad beans. A wooden frame, made out of reclaimed wood and bamboo canes, is set to support the short rows.
How to store broad beans for long term?
Freezing broad beans
Freezing broad beans is the quickest way to preserve the extra harvest.
- Wash the beans well and allow them to drain.
- Remove the strings if using the whole pod.
- Cut the pods into bite-size or remove the beans from the pods.
- Fill zip bags or food-saver bags with no more than a pound.
- Close it shut trying to remove all air out.
- Lay the bags flat in the freezer to save space and for quicker thawing.
Drying or dehydrating
Dried broad beans are common in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines.
- Leave the pods on the plant till fully or partially dried.
- Remove the beans from the pods.
- Continue the drying process by laying them on a tarp or rack.
- Allow to air dry completely.
- Store them in a glass jar or a cloth bag in a dry and dark place.
- You may put a dried hot pepper in the bag to deter bugs.