Vicia faba

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Vicia faba plants in flower
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Vicia faba, the broad bean, fava bean, faba bean, horse bean, field bean or tic bean is a species of bean (Fabaceae) native to north Africa and southwest Asia, and extensively cultivated elsewhere. Although usually classified in the same genus Vicia as the vetches, some botanists treat it in a separate monotypic genus as Faba sativa Moench.

They are often grown as a cover crop to prevent erosion because they can over-winter and because as a legume, they fix nitrogen in the soil.

Broad beans in the pod

It is a rigid, erect plant 0.5-1.7 m tall, with stout stems with a square cross-section. The leaves are 10-25 cm long, pinnate with 2-7 leaflets, and of a distinct glaucous grey-green colour; unlike most other vetches, the leaves do not have tendrils for climbing over other vegetation. The flowers are 1-2.5 cm long, with five petals, the standard petal white, the wing petals white with a black spot (true black, not deep purple or blue as is the case in many "black" colourings [1]), and the keel petals white. The fruit is a broad leathery pod, green maturing blackish-brown, with a densely downy surface; in the wild species, the pods are 5-10 cm long and 1 cm diameter, but many modern cultivars developed for food use have pods 15-25 cm long and 2-3 cm thick. Each pod contains 3-8 seeds; round to oval and 5-10 mm diameter in the wild plant, usually flattened and up to 20-25 mm long, 15 mm broad and 5-10 mm thick in food cultivars. Vicia faba has a diploid (2n) chromosome number of 12, meaning that each cell in the plant has 12 chromosomes (6 homologous pairs). Five pairs are acrocentric chromosomes and 1 pair is metacentric.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Vicia faba, Linn. (Faba vulgaris, Moench. F. sativa, Bernh.). Broad Bean. Windsor Bean. English Dwarf Bean. Horse Bean. Figs. 478, 479, Vol. I. Strong erect annual, 2-4 ft., glabrous or nearly so, very leafy: lfts. 2-6, the lower ones not opposite on the rachis, the terminal one wanting or represented by a rudimentary tendril, oval to elliptic and obtuse or mucronate-pointed: fls. in the axils, dull white and with a large blue-black spot: pods large and thick, from 2 or 3 in. even to 18 in. long, the seeds large and often flat. Probably native to N. Afr. and S. W. Asia. R.F.G. 22:238.—Much grown in the Old World, but the hot dry summers prevent its cult. in most parts of the U. S. It is grown successfully in parts of Canada, particularly in the maritime provinces, and also in Calif. as a winter vegetable or green-manure crop. The plant is grown mostly for cattle-feeding in the U. S. but the beans are extensively used in Eu., both full grown and immature, for human food. This bean has been cult. from prehistoric times and its nativity is in doubt. The plant is hardy and seeds should be sown early, when the season is cool. The unripe seeds are reported to have caused cases of poisoning, but little is known as to the conditions of the poison production.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



Pests and diseases


In much of the Anglophone world, the name broad bean is used for the large-seeded cultivars grown for human food, while horse bean and field bean refer to cultivars with smaller, harder seeds (more like the wild species) used for animal feed, though their stronger flavour is preferred in some human food recipes, such as falafel. The term fava bean (from the Italian name fava) is commonly used in the United States (especially for beans grown for human consumption), but is also seen elsewhere, especially in Mediterranean recipes (this language shift can also be seen in the common use of the term "arugula" in the US for what in the UK is called "rocket").


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