Sacred and Useful Plants: Legumes
The family of legumes is huge. There are string and shell beans from America; scarlet runners and limas from Central America; cowpea or black-eyed peas and asparagus beans or yard-long beans from Arabia, Antilles, the Americas, Africa, and the far East; peas from India and China; chick-peas or garbanzos from India; lentils from Egypt and India; and lupines and broad beans or faba beans from the Mediterranean basin.
In ancient days, beans were used in collecting votes from the people -- white for approval – dark for disapproval. Magistrates were elected by the casting of beans.
Beans and lentils are mentioned in Ezekiel 4: 9. Lentils are also mentioned in Genesis 25:29-34, Samuel 23:11, and 2 Samuel 17:28.
Faba vulgaris or broad bean is annual, indigenous to northern Persia (Iraq) and was extensively cultivated throughout western Asia in the Neo-lithic (5,000 BC); found in Egyptian mummy coffins; familiar to the Greeks and Romans – who introduced them to England – where they were used as animal fodder and were known as Windsor beans. Still widely grown in Palestine and Syria, broad bean is boiled and eaten as a vegetable. Faba bean meal may be added to wheat bread for nutritional boost and flavor. (Contact the author for recipe)
Faba plants are hardy, erect, sometimes hollow simple stemmed and grow to 3’ tall with compound leaves and white pea-like flowers. Pods are thick. The shores of the Nile are often beautifully fragrant with the bloom perfume. Faba is currently distributed world-wide as a garden plant. It has thus far no where been found in a wild state and it is quite possible that the wild ancestor has with time become extinct. It is drought resistant and a green manure crop for winter.
Sown in early October, faba blooms in February, and is harvested in May.
Faba seed is available on-line, from catalogs, and whole-food stores. To plant, soak overnight, cover with soil @ 3x thickness of seed (a general rule.) Place seeds on 6” centers in a thick bed with corner stakes and a rope corral or light fencing to control flopping.
Dry faba beans have a higher nutritive value than fresh: 87% solids, 21% protein, 53% carbohydrates, 3% lipids, 3% ash, and the highest calorific content among legumes -- after chick peas: 332 calories per 100 grams.
The author began faba field trials in 2009 in his home garden to develop a cultivar for North Central Florida and explore natural genetic variability. He invites your questions and suggestions: Call Jim Notestein at 352-372- 2107.
Copyright by James Edison Notestein -- May 25, 2010
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