The broad bean (Vicia faba L., 1753) is a plant belonging to the Leguminosae family or Fabaceae which has been cultivated in Europe since ancient times.
From a systematic point of view, the broad bean belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Fabales Order, Fabaceae Family, Faboideae Subfamily, Vicieae Tribe and therefore to the Genus Vicia and to the Species V. faba.
The name of the genus comes from the lat. “Viere” or “vincire”, ie to tie, in reference to the majority of the species of the genus that cling to each other through the cirriums. The name of this species derives from the Latin făba; the term refers in particular to the fruits of this plant, which are edible.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The broad bean is an annual plant of uncertain origin, cultivated since ancient times in all the countries of the Mediterranean basin and sometimes present in the subspontaneous state in almost all the regions of Italian peninsular and insular, especially in Mediterranean Italy. It is still grown in agricultural rotations to enrich the soil and edible legumes, which for millennia were a very important food for the poorer classes, so much so that they entered many aspects of folklore and literature, even in the common name “Fabio”.
The broad bean has a fictitious root system, with numerous lateral ramifications in the first 20 cm that host specific nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Rhizobium leguminosarum).
The stem of this plant has a quadrangular section, hollow, branched at the base, with an indeterminate growth, from 70 to 140 cm high.
The leaves are stipulated, glaucous, pinnate-composed, and are made up of 2-6 elliptical leaflets. It has flowers collected in short racemes that develop at the axil of the leaves starting from the 7th node. Each raceme bears 1 to 6 pentameri flowers, with wavy flag, of white color streaked with black and white or violet wings with black spot. The fertilization of the plant is autogamous.
The fruit is an elongated, cylindrical or flattened legume, end to point, erect or pendulous, glabrous or pubescent which contains from 2 to 10 seeds with evident hollows, initially green and darker in color (from hazelnut to brown) when ripe.
Vicia faba L., in relation to the size of the seed, is distinguished in four botanical varieties:
Vicia faba var. paugyuga with very small seeds, of Indian origin, is not cultivated
Vicia faba var. minor Beck, commonly called favino, with a weight of 1000 seeds less than 700 grams and a short and short pod; it is used as forage or green manure;
Vicia faba var. equina Pers., commonly called favetta, with a weight of 1000 seeds between 700 and 1000 grams and a clavate and elongated pod; it is used as a forage;
Vicia faba var. major Harz. with large seeds, the weight of the 1000 seeds is more than 1000 grams, the pod is 15-25 cm long and is pendulous and flattened with 5-10 seeds. Fresh cultivars belong to this variety.
The broad bean starts to germinate with already with ground temperatures around 5 ° C; in these conditions the emergency occurs in 15-20 days. The resistance of the bean to the cold is limited: frosts of -6 ° C are fatal to most varieties; only certain types of favino resist until -15 ° C.
During the blooming the resistance of the bean to frost is even less. Moreover, in this stage, rather low average temperatures, even if not fatal for the survival of the plant, can jeopardize the setting of the flowers either directly, disturbing the physiology of the ants, or indirectly hindering the flight of the pollinators. During the flowering high temperatures are to be feared, which if they exceed 25 ° C cause “flowering” of the flowers.
From the water point of view, the broad bean is a strong consumer of water and is found in the water deficiency during the phase of the granita the most important limiting factor of yields, particularly in the case of spring sowing. Drought causes dripping of the flowers and a reduction in the number of seeds per pod and weighing 1,000 seeds. This is why in the climates that allow it the broad bean is sown in autumn, from the moment in which the rains ensure not only germination but a good vegetative development.
The broad bean adapts well to heavy, clayey, clay-calcareous soils; it shuns from those loose and humus, organic, subject to stagnation of water. The pH that is best for the bean is that of sub-alkaline.
Thanks to the fact that it is a leguminous, that is being sown and that it releases the soil very early, so as to allow an excellent preparation for the wheat, the broad bean is an excellent improving crop, which is an excellent precession for the wheat; its place in the rotation is therefore between two cereals.
It can be considered that the cereal that follows the bean finds a residue of nitrogen, made from legumes, of the order of 40-50 Kg / ha, and in good growing conditions, after collecting the grain, the broad bean leaves a quantity of residues of the order of 4-5 t / ha of dry matter.
The rational preparation of the ground for the broad bean consists of a deep plowing (0.4-0.5 m) which favors the deepening of the roots and therefore the exploration and exploitation of the deepest water and nutritive resources.
It is not necessary to prepare a very refined seedbed: the considerable size of the seeds ensures that contact with the ground is ensured even if there is a certain amount of stickiness.
For the bean it has been used, above all in the last decades, a mineral fertilization based mainly on phosphorus, since like all the legumes it is particularly sensitive and reactive to this element. normally 60-80 Kg / ha of P2O5 is the dose to be made. as regards potassium, this generally abounds in clay soils where the broad bean should find its seat, while for the nitrogen the broad bean is in fact self-sufficient, thanks to the symbiosis with the Bacillus radicicola, for which nitrogenous fertilization is not necessary.
The autumn sowing should be done so that the seedlings have reached the stage of 3-5 leaves before the arrival of the cold. In the central regions the optimal time of sowing is between October and November; in the southern ones the second decade of November. Spring sowing (in fact at the end of winter) should be done as soon as possible to anticipate the cycle and avoid drought. The quantity of seeds must be such as to ensure 12-15 plants per square meter in the case of coarse bean, 25-35 in the case of beans and 40-60 in the case of favino. However, the quantity of seeds must be calculated on the basis of the average weight of the seeds: generally they range from 200-300 Kg / ha or more. The sowing is generally done with universal seed drills with rows 0.50 m apart in the case of broad bean and honeycomb, of 0.35-0.40 m in the case of the favino. The sowing must be rather deep: 60-80 mm in the case of coarse bean, 40-50 mm in the case of fairytale and favino. It seems that with a deep sowing the attacks of orobanche diminish. In the ortense culture the broad-bean broad bean is sown in postarellas, placing 3-5 seed per buchetta in 4-5 small square-meter holes.
The seed should be treated with tanning products to protect the seedlings from the attacks of Rhizoctonia, Pythium and Phytophtora. In full-field cultivation, dense seeding is convenient because it causes the insertion of the lower pods to increase, which is advantageous for the combine-harvesting which results in less grain loss.
As for the weeding, traditionally the broad bean was a sarchia culture. We always discourage chemical weeding for which we must refine techniques of false planting and regulation of fertilizers depending on the presence of some weeds. For this reason there is not a unique technique but, for each area, the plants present must be analyzed and adopt the most appropriate agronomic techniques.
Among the cultivation cures we remember the weeding, a light ridging, the topping.
As for the collection and use this varies depending on the destination of the product (fresh, dry, forage, etc.). The collection of fresh vegetable bean pods for fresh consumption is done by hand.
The immature seeds for canning and deep freezing are collected with fixed or self-propelled ginning machines, when they have reached the right tenderometric grade. The tenderometric grade is provided by a special device, called a tenderometer, which measures the resistance of the seed to be pierced by a tip. The optimum tenderometric values are usually 95-105 for deep-free fava beans, 115-125 for canning beans.
The harvest of dried seeds is done when the plant is completely dry. The big bean meets great difficulties in mechanical harvesting with combine harvesters, if not with bad quality results (breakage of seeds). Only the favino can be collected quite easily through properly regulated combine harvesters.
The harvesting period is mid-June in southern Italy, the end of June in the central one, and mid-July in northern Italy with spring sowing.
The production of pods for fresh consumption (vegetable fava) is around 20-30 t / ha.
The production of fresh seeds for the industry is considered good when it reaches 5-6 t / ha. The production of dry seeds, although theoretically could exceed 5 t / ha, in practice is much lower: 2-3 t / ha are the most frequent average production in Italy, with high risks of having in some years also rendered much lower due to factors that are not or poorly controlled by man (cold, drought, attacks of rusts or aphids, virosis).
Among the adversities of the bean we recall above all the Orobanche. Other adversities are represented by:
Anthracnose: the most serious attacks are those on the pods on which form necrotic and depressed blackish niches, which extend to the seeds in formation.
Rust: it manifests itself on the leaves and on the stems with the appearance of rusty pustules.
Mosaic: different viruses cause the mosaic diseases on the broad bean.
Black aphid: infest the broad bean, and many other plants, forming colonies of black aphids that bring the plants to serious decay as well as transmit some virosis.
Weevil: adults lay their eggs on young pods; the newborn larvae perforate the carpels to reach the seeds within which they grow by digging tunnels; at the end of the cycle the adults flicker from the seeds by perforating the seminal integuments.
According to an ancient agrarian tradition, in the vegetable garden it would be good to sow some broad beans inside the other crops since this legume, in addition to enriching the nitrogen soil, would attract on itself all the parasites, which consequently would not infect the other vegetables. The broad bean is alternated as an improving crop between two wheats.
Uses and Traditions –
The Fava as a food plant has been used by man in the Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern areas in very remote times. Its origins could therefore be ascribed to this area.
In historical antiquity, throughout the Middle Ages and until the last century, dried broad beans cooked in various ways constituted the main food protein base of many populations, especially those of southern Italy. In recent times, consumption of dried seeds has been reduced, while the use of fresh or preserved or canned immature grains is still widely used in human consumption.
It is known that the consumption of beans was forbidden to the Pythagoreans, which could be linked to “favism”, a clinical manifestation characterized by a hemolytic crisis in response to the consumption of broad beans due to the lack of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, the enzyme defect most common in the human species. According to the legend, Pythagoras himself, fleeing from the antics of Cilone (of Crotone), preferred to be reached and killed rather than to be saved through a field of beans.
According to a popular belief popular in Italy, if you find a bean pod containing seven seeds you will have a period of great fortune.
However the broad bean was already cultivated in the Bronze Age, in ancient times it was known and appreciated, even if it was surrounded by “a macabre nomea”. In the ancient Hellenic peninsula it was believed that Ceres had donated to a city of Arcadia the seeds of all legumes except those of beans, which was linked to the superstition of “housing the souls of the dead”, a belief also corroborated by Pythagoras.
At the time of the Romans they were consumed according to the recipes of Apicius, who wanted them together with eggs, honey and pepper, before mixing them with herbs and sauces. Moreover, during the feasts dedicated to the goddess Flora, protector of the nature that sprouts, the Romans threw them on the crowd as a sign of good luck. But at celebrations, this legume was once again considered impure because it was used in religious rites as food for the dead, a custom similar to that of the Greeks.
Among the main properties and benefits, it should be remembered that the beans are rich in fiber, essential for the regulation of intestinal functions and contribute to the control of glucose and cholesterol levels in the blood.
Among the legumes appears to be the least caloric. In any case, the broad bean has a high nutritional value: it provides proteins, fibers, a wide range of vitamins (A, group B, c, e, K, pp) and mineral salts important for their action of drainage of the urinary apparatus such as phosphorus , potassium and calcium. The dried broad bean seeds have a high protein content: their average composition is in fact the following: 85% dry matter, 23-26% nitrogenous substances, 3% ashes, 1.2% fat, 7% raw fiber, nitrogen-free extracts 48%.
As mentioned above some predisposed subjects can not eat them, or even simply inhale the pollen of the plant in bloom, due to a hereditary pathology called “favism”, determined by the absence of an enzyme necessary to neutralize the harmful effects of some toxic substances present in beans.
Preparation Mode –
In human food the beans come in both as a fresh and dry product.
Among the most characteristic recipes of this seed we recall the macco of beans.
Between Puglia, Calabria and Sicily everyone has a way to do the macco.
It is difficult to find an agreement between fresh and dried broad beans. It is only simplicity, and at the same time the aromaticity of the macco that determines the success of this dish.
Soup or dressing for pasta: this is not clear either. Someone even makes meatballs that presents as fried macco.
However, both for the preparation of macco beans must be boiled quickly, coarsely chopped and then enriched with many variables: from chilli, to fennel or other aromatic additions (without ever forgetting a good extra virgin olive oil) that make it, from time to time. vault of typical and tasty dishes.
In Italian vocabulary it is stated that for macco, generically, it is “a living of shelled broad beans, boiled and reduced to pulp”.
For San Giuseppe, in Sicily (in some areas), in the macco, legumes and chestnuts also end up. Attention, not even with the saint the macco finds peace. Do not miss the use in some countries to add to the beetle beans and thistles and to call the whole soup of St. Joseph.
But the beans are also suitable for dry consumption with a bundle of dried beans, simply boiled and served at the table seasoned with oil and other spices. Among the uses of broad beans we remember the pasta with beans, some risottos and salads with variables that should be treated separately.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.