How to grow delicious fava bean shoots

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It’s not very well known, but one of the fastest, most productive and tastiest crops to grow in containers is fava bean shoots. They’re super easy to grow, too.

The shoots have a delicious fresh bean taste. They are lovely in salads or you can add them at the last minute to risottos or stir fries – use them in similar ways to pea shoots.

They also make a great choice for shady window sills or balconies as they need little sun (just good, bright light).

This video shows you how to grow them. Check out how many shoots you’ll get off one small seed tray!

Tips

Here is a summary of the tips from the video..

To grow them you need

  1. Fava bean seeds, about one cup – you can use the dried beans sold for cooking. Look for them in stores that specialise in Middle Easten foods (where they are usually sold as ‘Ful Medames’) or online. In the UK, Hodmedod sell excellent quality dried fava beans (and dried peas).
  2. A container at least 2 inches (5cm) deep. A seed tray does the job perfectly – but any container with drainage holes in is fine.
  3. Multipurpose compost. You can also use old compost from last years pots – add a handful of worm compost or a sprinkle of chicken manure pellets if you have them, but this is not essential.

Tips for successful fava shoot harvests

  1. Soak the beans in water for 24 hours before planting (not essential).
  2. Sow close together. Leave a space about the size of a bean between each seed. You’ll need lots of seeds! Luckily they are sold by the lb or kilo – which will grow you lots and lots of shoots!
  3. After sowing, cover with a layer of compost about the thickness of a bean.
  4. Water and keep compost damp (but not wet).
  5. Put the seeds in a well lit, bright place to grow eg in front of a bright window or on a window sill (they need little if any sun).
  6. Harvest when 3 – 5 inches (6-12 cm tall), by snipping with scissors (just like harvest mustard and cress.

If you want a second crop, snip the beans just above the bottom leaf. They will often regrow. You’ll get a better second harvest if you sow them in a slightly deeper container (6 inches  or 15 cm deep).

When to grow Fava beans

Fave beans shoots can be grown all year round, and do well outside in the UK from March to November. In the warmer months they will be ready to crop in two weeks, in the cooler months they can take four – six weeks. In winter, although they can be grown outside (unless it is very cold), they are easier and faster to grow on a window sill inside.

What are Fava Beans?

Fava beans are a type of small broad bean. They are one of the oldest cultivated crops in the UK – and used to be eaten widely until they become unfashionable. They are still grown in the UK but most are exported to the Middle East or used as animal feed. You can read more in this interesting article in the Guardian. I like to grow them as shoots (as described above). But if you give them more space and leave them for longer, they will produce a crop of small, delicious broad beans. You won’t get a huge harvest off one  container but they are fun to grow – and will even produce beans in a shady spot, according to Natalie who tried them last year – thanks Natalie for this info!

Your turn

If you grow them, I’d love to hear how you get on? And what’s your favourite way to eat them?

42 comments… add one

  • Hey Mark, i live in Denver Colorado. It’s still cold here in late April. Just bought some fava beans and sprouting them. Didn’t know they like cold weather, going to plant some outside. Having good luck sprouting: lentils, mung beans, flax seeds, sunfliwer seeds, wheat grass. Having lots of trouble sprouting peas in soil. They seem to rot. I figure they are too wet. My third batch I’m trying to sprout like mung beans, with no soil, just rinsing them 2 times a day.
    I have found many seeds to sprout at the health food store.
    Thanks for the instructional video.

    Reply
    • Great stuff AJ. Yes if they are rotting it might be the growing media is too wet. If you’re growing them in soil outside it may also be the cold slowing things down – although peas will survive pretty cold temps, it can make them slow to germinate.

      Reply
  • Thanks for this inspiring video. Are the shoots edible without cooking or is it necessary to blanch them?

    Reply
    • Hi Birgit, yes these shoots are edible without cooking – they are the same as fava tips or shoots, the green tips of broad beans plants that people also eat. I’ve given them to lots of people to eat (including several chefs) and they all enjoyed them!

      Reply
  • My son is using them in his science project and we’re wondering how is possible can you speed up the germination process. He currently has the seeds individually buried in plastic cups about 1 inch deep in potting soil. They’re kept by a window which receives a lot of light but we haven’t see any shoots yet after a week. Any advice would help. Thanks.
    Jerry

    Reply
    • Hi Jerry, soaking them in water for 24 hours before planting speeds up the process a bit. Temperature also makes a difference. But if they are inside they should be quite warm enough – fava are a cool climate crop. And the compost needs to be damp (but not soaking wet). They can often take 7 – 14 days to germinate, so, as long as the seeds are viable, they should be up soon. If you are worried they are not coming up, you can always take one out and look at it – you’ll probably find that it has already germinated and grown a small root – but the shoot just hasn’t surfaced yet.

      Reply
  • Many thanks for this, very useful and clear info, it’s giving me lots of inspiration! Do you think fava beans are the most productive salad grown like this?

    Reply
    • Hello, thank you for your kind comment, so glad you’re finding something useful. In my experience, fava beans are certainly one of the most productive. Pea shoots are another very productive one. Another high yielding – although maybe slightly less – is sunflower shoots. The trick with all of them is sowing them thickly.

      Reply
  • Thank you for these instructions! I’ve grown favas for many years outdoors in fall/winter for fresh peas in early spring (northern California US). they are a bit of extra work to prepare, but a great treat when nothing else is ready in the garden. I have been looking for ways to grow them for fresh greens, and you have provided the answer! Thank you so much! By the way, the fresh greens are a concentrated natural source of dopamine, the key ingredient in most Parkinson’s medications (the seeds are not nearly as rich in this compound). People already taking the medication need to be watchful if they are also eating lots of these greens.
    Thanks again for this, and for this wonderful site!

    Reply
    • My pleasure! And thank you for sharing that interesting information about dopamines. Mark

      Reply
  • I’m just at the beginning of exploring growing food (waiting for allotment, reading Permaculture) but doing what I can indoors in my flat. I was growing Fava shoots and pea shoots which are great but had trouble with small black flies (fruit flies?). Not sure if they do much harm but not very pleasant. Is the problem lack of predators?

    Reply
    • Sounds like fungus gnats aka sciarid flies – often come with the compost you buy. More info about them on the RHS site.

      Reply
      • Thank you – they do seem just to appear from nowhere.

        Reply
  • This winter, I’ve sown fava beans already 4 (!) times in my new greenhouse. However, there seems to be a small hole – just wide enough for a small mouse… we captured her/him on camera. They really seem to enjoy freshly sown fava beans.
    Jeanne
    Switzerland

    Reply
  • Have some large plants in my backyard – trimmed some new leaves off and will try sautéing them tonight! Thanks for the inspiration.

    Reply
  • I am so going to try these; I’ve ordered my fava beans! – thanks very much for the link to Hodmedod :) I bought some peas too. Are there any other beans that can be grown for their shoots in the same way?

    Reply
  • Hey.no fair! Your shoots look all leafy, full and sa
    ady.After a week, all I have are Long fronds with 4leaves.Life is unjust!

    Reply
  • Thanks, I am soaking my fava beans right now.Please, if I harvst above the bottom leaves will I get new crops? Can this work with chick peas or other types of sturdy beans.I am in houston, which is in tripple digits, so I hope they All don’t crap out.great article

    Reply
    • Hiya Jean, yes, they will often regrow so you get a second crop. Chick peas also work well – pretty leaves, too. Also peas are fantastic. I’ve never tried French or Runner beans… I’m not sure but I don’t think they work. Has anyone else?

      Reply
      • Success! I started all over and now have a beautiful living salad, the envy of my neighbors, who are busy planting theirs.AlL thanks to you.LET THE FRONDS GROW WHERE THEY WILL.It is hard to grow green stuff in this climate, so this is great.hope you continue with your website…..Jean

        Reply
  • I’m going to have to figure out where to buy fava beans here in Copenhagen! Also dried peas. Have you any other suggestions as to what other seedlings I should try out?

    I’ve got some chickpeas growing in the window sill at the moment. I’m excited to find out if I like them.

    Reply
    • I found them at a Middle Eastern grocery store here in Thun, Switzerland.
      Good luck! I’ve planted about 5 pots with them; but they have all been eaten – hardly before they even emerged – probably by our resident marten……

      Reply
    • As Jeanne says, Marie, look out for fava beans in middle eastern stores – they are often sold there as ‘ful medames’. Sunflower shoots are very nice if you pick them before there second leaves appear. Also buckwheat, coriander (from store coriander), and fennel.

      Reply
    • Thank you both so much. I better check out all the middle eastern stores around here. (There are plenty! )

      Didn’t know buckwheat could be used as salad. Fennel is delicious. I’ll see what I can find. :)

      I’m enjoying your blog, Mark.

      Reply
  • I enjoyed very much both the video and the article. Honestly, eating faba bean shoots is new for me. I have planted these beans for years, but I did not know young plants were so delicious. I even cut some leaves to taste them and they taste very good.

    But, I really have no idea how to prepare a salad with this. Can you suggest any recipy?

    Cheers,

    L. Santiago
    Venezuela

    Reply
    • Hi Leonardo, Bean shoots and avocado with a lemon and olive oil dressing is a simple but nice one, perhaps with a few mint leaves if you have them. But you can add fava bean leaves to almost any mixed green salad really. Very nice in stir fries, too.

      Reply
  • have to laugh – i kept my fava beans on low shelf – expecting them to take longer than they did – until i realised they were growing VERY tall desperate for the light that i’d been starving them of… finally have rather tall storks with some delish greens on (too embarrassed to add a pic!!!) Very glad to have some indoor greens like these to add to my usual sprouts…. thank you for that Mark!

    Reply
    • Ha, ha, they can be quick, Sarah. Glad you tried them and they taste OK!

      Reply
      • Hi Mark – back after over a year – how can I stop the beans becoming so very long and leggy before sprouting some leaves???
        in appreciation
        Sarah

        Reply
        • Hi Sarah! Legginess is caused by a lack of light – and the warmer your house is, the more light your beans will need. So if you can either put them in a brighter place or turn down the temperature it will help. I sometimes germinate them inside and then put them outside – as long as it is not too cold.
          Mark

          Reply
  • Sunflower shoots are very quick and easy, much more affordable than beans

    Reply
    • Sunflower shoots are another super crop – and delicious, too. I’m not sure I’d say they are more affordable? I guess it depends on what source of seeds you find. You can get a kilo of fava bean seeds in the UK for about £2 ($3) and a kilo will grow you a good number (ten or more) of trays full.

      Reply
  • hi
    thanks for your inspiring site! However, I’m now a bit confused with the terms fava beans and broad beans – as both are not available in Switzerland from seed companys. Of course, I can order them from abroad. Do you think I could grow bought fava beans from a Middle Eastern store on into “real” plants – and not just shoots?
    best regards from a wintry Switzerland,
    Jeanne

    Reply
    • Hi Jeanne, yes, you can certainly do that – as long as the seed is not too old, it will work perfectly. Good luck – do let me know how it goes. Mark

      Reply
  • One tip for people who’d like to transplant the shoots into larger containers or their garden is to do the transplanting when the shoots are about 3-4 inches tall. As you mentioned, the beans should be planted further apart if this is your plan. Fava have really strong roots and they’ll get all tangled up if planted too closely together. Here in New York, I have started them in small pots and then move them into the garden as soon as I can work them into the soil, around March. Unlike other beans, they tolerate and prefer the cooler weather. Then they’ll be ready to harvest around June.

    Reply
    • Nice tip Mina. Thanks for sharing. I’m enjoying imagining your fava beans in New York!
      Mark

      Reply
  • Thank you, I did not know that fava bean shoots are edible, nor did I know it was easy to grow them. I’ll give it a try.

    Reply
    • Yes do tray them Kay – would love to hear how you find them.

      Reply
      • Hi pleased to be in touch again makes it feel like spring is on the way will be giving the beans a go sound interesting be happy in your new home Maureen

        Reply

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