Plentiful Spring Greens from Fava Beans

In the fall I like to scatter fava beans on fallow garden areas so that something will be growing there over the winter. Favas are a great cover crop around here because they will germinate and grow even if planted in November. I also scattered a bit of crimson clover along with the favas, but the favas won! Now it is time to reclaim the garden space. I hate to do it because everything is blooming and the pollinators are working the flowers. So I delay and procrastinate until the last minute.

In the mean time, the favas have been a great source of edible greens for quite a while now. Ellen doesn’t enjoy them as much as I do, but I love them. You won’t find these in the grocery store.

I picked a few tender tops from the rather robust crop growing outside the fence by the road. The very tops are the most tender, and if you get a few flower buds, that just adds interest. Like all greens, you start out with a big pot full and end up with a small cup of cooked greens once they are steamed.

If you want a more spinach-like texture, use a pair of scissors to slice up the stems on the cooked greens.

Like collards, I find a dash of balsamic vinegar is the perfect flavor enhancer. The fava tops have a distinct “pea family” flavor that I enjoy.

Coming up with good year-round food from your garden can be a challenge some times of the year. Late spring is one of those times. This years crops are just getting started and the overwintered cole crops and leeks are getting long in the tooth. We ate the last winter squash a week ago, so plentiful fresh greens are welcome. The effort involved in this crop is almost incidental. You watch them gradually colonize your fallow ground over the winter, glad that the rains are not washing all of the soil nutrients away. When the growth picks up in the spring, there is lunch for the picking!


  1. I only tried growing them once, and didn’t get any to start. I don’t exactly have a green thumb, but do you do anything to the seeds, scarify etc?

  2. I save fava seed one year to the next. I’m going to let some mature this year since I just used up the last of my last batch. Favas are susceptible to the pea weevil, which make little perfectly round holes in the beans. The solution is to store the seed in the deep freeze for a few weeks to kill the weevils inside. Other than that, I just till up the old beds in the fall, scatter the seed by hand, and rake it into the soil.

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