My fava beans are blooming away, sweet as sweet peas, but they just haven't been setting fruit. Why grow fava beans if you're not going to get fava beans?
I've read that favas can be attacked mercilessly by blackfly, but so far I have had no bug problems. My plants have been healthy, apparently happy with plenty of rain and good soil, but in no hurry to reproduce. Frustrated by my lack of beans, I turned to a local authority, Pat Welsh, in her book, Southern California Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide. Here is what she had to say:
In some climate zones fava beans will bear crops without the aide of the gardener, but for a variety of reasons (including too much shade, water, or fertilizer) they may bear flowers but no beans. If that happens, pinch off the growing tips of the stems. [. . .] Withing a week of pinching, the favas will start to bear beans. Wait until the pods are between 5 and 8 inches long and filled with beans before you begin to harvest. (The tips of the stem you pinched off are very good to eat; steam or stir-fry them.) (60).The greens are edible? Another food that I haven't ever eaten? I had to try out this tip. So, the next day at the veggie plot I pulled out my garden scissors and snipped off the very tip of a few of the stalks that were already blooming. I made sure to leave four or five flower clusters on each stalk so that there would be flowers left to set fruit.
Two days later, this is what I found:
Yup, my first baby fava bean, and more have come since then. But what is even better than setting beans is the fact that fava bean greens are delicious. They're sweet, a little beany, and have a wonderful, succulent texture. Apparently, there is a reason to grow fava beans, beans or not.
Problem Number 2:
I'm 5'7". My pea towers are 8' tall, and my sugar snap vines have outgrown the towers by at least another foot.
I do not have extendo-arms or superpowers that can teletransport the peas directly into my harvest basket. I can't drag a step ladder into the garden for the soil is too soft. My peas are producing like mad, but if I can't get to them, what good does that do anyone?
If I let the vines grow any taller, I won't be able to get the peas that set on them, so the solution is clearly to not let the vines get any taller.
Gently, I pulled each vine down towards me and I trimmed off the top 6" of each, flower buds and all. I hope that trimming off the growing tops of the vines will encourage growth lower on the vines, thereby leading to peas that are within my reach. What to do with those pea vine tops? Eat them, of course.
Left with a basket of fava bean tops and pea vine trimmings, I hit my kitchen, inspired. Mike had violet-tinged young garlic, a treat I couldn't pass up, at his stand on Saturday, and I knew that would complement the sweet greens beautifully. I added the pungent zing of preserved lemon, and I had a dish that was more than an unexpected solution to my garden problems, it was also mighty-fine eating.
Sautéed Fava Bean and Pea Greens, with Green Garlic and Preserved Lemon
You will need:
A generous handful of 2"-4" fava bean tops
A generous handful of 6" pea vine trimmings
5 green garlic shoots
½ a preserved lemon, flesh discarded and rind sliced into fine slivers
Coarse salt to taste
To make the dish:
Wash and dry the greens and garlic. Cut off the roots from the garlic, cut each garlic shoot into 4" lengths, slice them 4" pieces lengthwise in half, then in quarters. The slender pieces of garlic will curl, imitating the pea vine tendrils.
Place a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat and pour in a generous slick of olive oil. When the oil is hot, toss in the greens and garlic shoots, quickly stirring the greens around the pan so they don't burn. Cook the greens in this manner for 2 minutes or so, or until the greens, even the inner reaches of them, have turned bright green. Toss in the slivered preserved lemon and stir to incorporate the flavorful golden bits throughout the mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt to taste, and serve.
Serves two problem-solving gardeners.
I'm submitting this post to the talented Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook for her event, My Legume Love Affair.