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 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’re a good 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!
Here is a summary of the tips from the video..
To grow them you need
- 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).
- A container at least 2 inches (5cm) deep. A seed tray does the job perfectly – but any container with drainage holes in is fine.
- 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
- Soak the beans in water for 24 hours before planting (not essential).
- 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!
- After sowing, cover with a layer of compost about the thickness of a bean.
- Water and keep compost damp (but not wet).
- 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).
- 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!
If you grow them, I’d love to hear how you get on? And what’s your favourite way to eat them?