Herb: Broad Bean

Latin name: Vicia faba major

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Broad Bean:

The seedpods are diuretic and lithontripic.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild situation.

Edible parts of Broad Bean:

Broad bean seeds are very nutritious and are frequently used as items of food. There are, however, some potential problems to their use if they are consumed in large quantities - see the notes above on toxicity. The immature seeds can be eaten raw when they are small and tender, as they grow older they can be cooked as a vegetable. They have a very pleasant floury taste. The young pods can be cooked as a vegetable, though they quickly become fibrous and also have a hairy coating inside that can become unpleasant as the pods get larger. Mature seeds can be eaten cooked as a vegetable or added to soups etc. They are best soaked for 12 - 24 hours prior to cooking in order to soften them and reduce the cooking time. They will also become more nutritious this way. The flavour is mild and pleasant with a floury texture. They can also be dried and ground into a flour for use in making bread etc with cereal flours. The seed can also be fermented to make "tempeh".The seed can be sprouted before being cooked. Popped seeds can be salted and eaten as a snack or roasted like peanuts. Young leaves - cooked. They are very nutritious and can be used like spinach.

Other uses of the herb:

A fibre is obtained from the stems. The burnt stems are rich in potassium and can be used in making soap.

Propagation of Broad Bean:

Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in situ in succession from late winter until early summer. Germination should take place in about 7 - 10 days. The earlier sowings should be of suitably hardy varieties such as the "Longpods" whilst later sowings can be of the tastier varieties such as the "Windsors". By making fresh sowings every 3 weeks you will have a continuous supply of fresh young seeds from early summer until early autumn. If you want to grow the beans to maturity then the seed needs to be sown by the middle of spring. You may need to protect the seed from the ravages of mice. Another sowing can be made in middle to late autumn. This has to be timed according to the area where the plants are being grown. The idea is that the plants will make some growth in the autumn and be perhaps 15 - 20cm tall by the time the colder part of winter sets in. As long as the winter is not too severe, the plants should stand well and will grow away rapidly in the spring to produce an earlier crop. The plants will also be less likely to be attacked by blackfly. Make sure you choose a suitably hardy variety for this sowing.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild situation.

Known hazards of Vicia faba major:

Although often used as an edible seed, there are reports that eating the seed of this plant can cause the disease 'Favism' in susceptible people. Inhaling the pollen can also cause the disease. Favism, which is a severe haemolytic anaemia due to an inherited enzymatic deficiency, only occurs in cases of excessive consumption of the raw seed (no more details are given) and when the person is genetically inclined towards the disease. About 1% of Caucasians and 15% of Negroids are susceptible to the disease.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.