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Vicia faba
Vicia faba plants in flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Vicieae
Genus: Vicia
Species: V. faba
Binomial name
Vicia faba

Faba sativa Moench.

Vicia faba, the Broad Bean, Fava Bean, Faba Bean, Field Bean, Bell Bean or Tic Bean is a species of bean (Fabaceae) native to north Africa and southwest Asia, and extensively cultivated elsewhere. A variety is provisionally recognized:

  • Vicia faba var. equina Pers.Horse Bean

Although usually classified in the same genus Vicia as the vetches, some botanists treat it in a separate monotypic genus Faba.



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 color; 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" colorings [1]), and the keel petals white. Crimson flowered broad beans also exist which were recently saved from extinction[2]. 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. Arabic فول


Worldwide broad bean yield

Broad beans have a long tradition of cultivation in Old World agriculture, being among the most ancient plants in cultivation and also among the easiest to grow. It is believed that along with lentils, peas, and chickpeas, they became part of the eastern Mediterranean diet in around 6000 BC or earlier. They are still 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. These commonly cultivated plants can be attacked by fungal diseases, such as Rust (Uromyces viciae-fabae) and Chocolate Spot (Botrytis fabae).

Mature field bean pods

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 fava, meaning "broad bean") is sometimes used in English speaking countries, however the term broad bean is the most common name in the UK.

Culinary uses

Broad beans, shelled and lightly steamed for 3 minutes
Fried broad beans as a snack

Broad beans are eaten while still young and tender, enabling harvesting to begin as early as the middle of spring for plants started under glass or over-wintered in a protected location, but even the maincrop sown in early spring will be ready from mid to late summer. Horse beans, left to mature fully, are usually harvested in the late autumn.

The young leaves of the plant can also be eaten either raw or cooked like spinach.

The beans can be fried, causing the skin to split open, and then salted and/or spiced to produce a savory crunchy snack. These are popular in China, Colombia, Peru (habas saladas), Mexico (habas con chile) and in Thailand (where their name means "open-mouth nut").

Broad bean purée with wild chicory is a typical Puglian dish.

In the Sichuan cuisine of China, broad beans are combined with soybeans and chili peppers to produce a spicy fermented bean paste called doubanjiang.

In most Arab countries the fava bean is used for a breakfast dish called ful medames. Ful medames is usually crushed fava beans in a sauce although the Fava beans do not have to be crushed.

Fava beans are common in Latin American cuisines as well. In central Mexico, mashed fava beans are a common filling for many corn flour-based antojito snacks such as tlacoyos. In Colombia they are most often used whole in vegetable soups. Dried and salted fava beans are a popular snack in many Latin countries.

In Iran

Broad beans are primarily cultivated in the central part of Iran. The city of Kashan has the highest production of broad beans with high quality in terms of the taste, cooking periods and color. However, broad beans have a very short season (roughly two weeks.) The season is usually in the middle of Spring. When people have access to fresh beans in season, they cook it in brine and then add vinegar and Heracleum persicum depending on taste. They also make an extra amount to dry to be used year round. The dried beans can be cooked with rice which forms one of the most famous dishes in Iran called "Baghalee Polo (Persian : باقالی پلو)" which means rice with broad bean. In Iran broad beans are cooked, served with pepper and salt and sold on streets in the winter. This food is also available preserved in metal cans.

In Egypt

Fava beans (Arabic: فول) are a common staple food in the Egyptian diet, eaten by rich and poor alike. Egyptians eat fava beans in various ways: they may be shelled and then dried, bought dried and then cooked by adding water in very low heat for several hours, etc. They are the primary ingredient in Ta`meyyah (Arabic: طعميه) (Egyptian Arabic for falafel), and Egyptians have made deriding Levantine felafel (made from chickpeas) as inferior something of a national sport. However, the most popular way of preparing fava beans in Egypt is by taking the mashed, cooked beans and adding oil, garlic, lemon, salt and cumin to it. It is then eaten with bread. The dish, known as ful medames, is traditionally eaten with onions (generally at breakfast) and is considered the Egyptian national dish.

In Greece

Broad beans (Greek: κουκιά, koukiá) are eaten in a stew combined with artichokes, while they are still fresh in their pod. Dried broad beans are eaten boiled, sometimes combined with garlic sauce (skordalia). In Crete fresh broad beans are shelled and eaten as companion to tsikoudia, the local alcoholic drink. Favism is quite common in Greece because of malaria endemicity in previous centuries, and people afflicted by it do not eat broadbeans.

Note: The Greek word fáva (φάβα) does not refer to broadbeans, but to the yellow split pea and also to the legume Lathyrus sativus, either of which are boiled with salt to the local variety of pease pudding, also called fáva. This creamy fáva is then served hot or cold, sprinkled with olive oil and garnished with a variety of condiments and seasonings such as diced onion, capers, parsley, pepper, lemon juice, etc.

In Ethiopia

Broad beans( Amharic: 'baqueella') are one of the most popular legumes in Ethiopia. Broad beans are tightly coupled with every aspect of Ethiopian life. They are mainly used as an alternative to peas to prepare a flour called 'shiro' which is used to make 'shiro wot' (a stew almost ubiquitous in Ethiopian dishes). During the fasting period in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church tradition called 'filliseta' (which is in August), two uncooked spicy vegetable dishes are made using broad beans. The first is called 'Elibet' which is a thin white paste of broad bean flour mixed with pieces of onion, green pepper, garlic, and other spices based on personal taste. The second is 'silijou' which is a fermented, sour, spicy, thin, yellow paste of broad bean flour. Both are served with other stews and 'injera'( a pancake like bread)- during lunch and dinner.
Also, 'baqueella nifro' (boiled broad beans) are eaten like a snack during some holidays and during a time of mourning (i.e. when some one dies). Interestingly, this tradition goes well in to religious holidays too. On the Thursday before Good Friday-in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church tradition 'tselote hamus'(The Prayer of Thursday): people eat a different kind of 'nifro' called 'Gulban'. 'Gulban' is made of peeled, half beans collected and well cooked with other grains like wheat, peas and chick peas. As usual, this is done to mourn the crucification of Jesus Christ.
'boq'ullit' (boiled salted broad beans embryo) is one of the most favorite snacks in the evening ( the common story telling time in the north and central Ethiopia). It is particularly a favorite for the story teller (usually a society elder) as it is delicious, and easy to chew and swallow.
Last but not least, ripe broad beans from a broad beans crop are eaten by passersbys. Besides that, they are one of the gift items from a countryside relative in a period close to the Ethiopian Epiphany.

Health issues

Broad beans are rich in tyramine, and thus should be avoided by those taking monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors.

Raw broad beans contain vicine, isouramil and convicine, which can induce hemolytic anemia in patients with the hereditary condition glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD). This potentially fatal condition is called "favism" after the fava bean.[1][2]

Broad beans are rich in L-dopa, a substance used medically in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. L-dopa is also a natriuretic agent, which might help in controlling hypertension.[3] Some also use fava beans as a natural alternative to drugs like Viagra, citing a link between L-dopa production and the human libido.[citation needed] Broad beans are widely cultivated in district Kech and Panjgur of Balochistan Province of Pakistan and eastern province of Iran. In Balochi language, they are called Bakalaink, and Baghalee in Persian. The elders generally restrict the young children from eating them raw (when unmatured) because they can cause constipation and jaundice-like symptoms.[citation needed]

Areas of origin of the bean correspond to malarial areas. There are epidemiological and in vitro studies which suggest that the hemolysis resulting from favism acts as protection from malaria, because certain species of malarial protozoa such as Plasmodium falcipacrum are very sensitive to oxidative damage due to deficiency of Glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase enzyme which would otherwise protect from oxidative damage via production of glutathione reductase[4]

Other uses

Plate showing broad beans, from Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, 1885.
  • In ancient Greece and Rome, beans were used in voting; a white bean being used to cast a yes vote, and a black bean for no. Even today the word koukia ( κουκιά) is used unofficially, referring to the votes.
  • In Ubykh culture, throwing beans on the ground and interpreting the pattern in which they fall was a common method of divination (favomancy), and the word for "bean-thrower" in that language has become a generic term for seers and soothsayers in general.
  • In Italy, broad beans are traditionally sown on November 2, All Souls Day. Small cakes made in the shape of broad beans (though not out of them) are known as fave dei morti or "beans of the dead". According to tradition, Sicily once experienced a failure of all crops other than the beans; the beans kept the population from starvation, and thanks were given to Saint Joseph. Broad beans subsequently became traditional on Saint Joseph's Day altars in many Italian communities. Some people carry a broad bean for good luck; some believe that if one carries a broad bean, one will never be without the essentials of life. In Rome, on the first of May Roman families traditionally eat fresh fava beans with Pecorino Romano cheese during a daily excursion in the Campagna. In Northern Italy, on the contrary, fava beans are traditionally fed to animals and some people, especially the elderly, might frown on human consumption.
  • In Portugal a Christmas Cake called Bolo Rei ("King Cake") is baked with a "Fava" bean inside. Whoever eats the slice containing it, is supposed to buy next year's cake.
  • In ancient Greece and Rome, beans were used as a food for the dead, such as during the annual Lemuria festival.
  • In some folk legends, such as in Estonia and the common Jack and the Beanstalk story, magical beans grow tall enough to bring the hero to the clouds.
  • The Grimm Brothers collected a story in which a bean splits its sides laughing at the failure of others. Dreaming of a bean is sometimes said to be a sign of impending conflict, though others said that they caused bad dreams.
  • Pliny claimed that they acted as a laxative.
  • European folklore also claims that planting beans on Good Friday or during the night brings good luck.

Cultural references


  1. ^ Kathrynne Holden. "Fava Beans, Levodopa, and Parkinson's Disease". 
  2. ^ Russ Parsons. "The Long History of the Mysterious Fava Bean". 
  3. ^ Vered Y, Grosskopf I, Palevitch D, Harsat A, Charach G, Weintraub MS, Graff E. The influence of Vicia faba (broad bean) seedlings on urinary sodium excretion. Planta Med 1997;63:237-40. PMID 9225606.
  4. ^ Nelson L. David, Cox M. Michael .2005. “Chapter 14- Glycolysis, Gluconeogenesis, and the Pentose Phosphate Pathway” In Principles of Biochemistry. Freeman, New York. pp. 551.


  • Dr. D. G. Hessayon (2003). The Vegetable & Herb Expert. Expert Books. ISBN 0-903505-46-0

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:


Vicia faba

  1. (taxonomy) A taxonomic species within the genus Vicia — a species of bean known as fava bean or broad bean among others.


  • Faba sativa


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Vicia faba


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Fabales
Familia: Fabaceae
Subfamilia: Faboideae
Tribus: Fabeae
Genus: Vicia
Subgenus: V. subg. Vicia
Sectio: V. sect. Faba
Species: Vicia faba
Varieties: V. faba var. equina - V. faba var. faba - V. faba var. minuta


Vicia faba L.


  • Species Plantarum 2:737. 1753
  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]

Vernacular names

Deutsch: Ackerbohne
Türkçe: Bakla
Українська: Біб кінський
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Vicia faba on Wikimedia Commons.

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