Did you know that the leaves from fava bean plants are edible? How about the flowers?
Often with fava beans, I can take ’em or leave ’em. They have a wonderful light, nutty flavor, but after a day spent shelling beans, sometimes I’m simply content with getting that same light, nutty flavor from just the leaves.
Fava leaves taste like a cross between fava beans and pea shoots. (And if you haven’t tried the “bonus” crop that are pea shoots, I highly recommend you pinch off a few leaves to sample!)
Fava flowers taste like a lighter version of the leaves, with a mildly sweet flavor akin to spring peas. There are many flowers out there considered “edible,” but whether they’re palatable is another thing entirely. Fava flowers are not only beautiful and edible, they’re tasty in their own right.
Fava plants typically start to flower about six weeks after sowing. At this point, you can start to trim the tops for their tender greens.
I pinch or snip the first few inches (or the first two to three sets of leaves) from the top, flowers and all, just above a leaf node (a junction on the stem where a young shoot is starting to emerge). This method is similar to harvesting pea shoots, and not only will it encourage new shoots (and therefore new leaves, flowers, and most importantly, beans!) to grow from the pinched-off point, it also helps your fava plant stay full and bushy (rather than tall and lanky).
I only pinch off the leaves and flowers once every couple of weeks, as I do want the plant to focus on producing beans instead of generating foliage. If you’re not a fan of the beans, you can grow favas simply for their leaves and harvest more (and more often).
After your plant has produced a full crop of beans, you can cut the whole thing down to the ground, leaving about six inches standing. Always ensure you prune above a leaf node where you see young shoots starting to sprout. This vigorous haircut often encourages the plant to grow again and produce a second crop of beans. However, if you sowed your fava plants in early spring and harvested in early summer, you may not get a second crop since favas don’t fare well in summer heat.
At that time, you can cut them all down, leave the roots to rot in situ to release nitrogen back into the soil, and compost the spent foliage.