Friday, February 27, 2009

Crimson Flowering Fava

Crimson Flowering Fava Plants in Foreground
Under cover in back is Superaguadulce (Marocco) favas

The Crimson Flowering Fava is another heirloom vegetable that I learned about in William Woys Weaver's book 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From. That book is really dangerous for someone like me who likes to grow unusual or rare vegetables. One of these days I'll have to make a list of all the plants that I sought out because I read about them there.

Closer view of Crimson Flowers starting to bloom
Carrots sprouting behind.

Anyway, the Crimson Flowering Favas were first documented in the 18th century in England. This variety was brought back from the edge of extinction when the last few seeds in existence were donated by the Cutbush family to the Henry Doubleday Research Association. The association grew the seeds out and now some of the descendants of that stock are growing in my garden.

Closer view of the blossoms opening.

I got my original seeds from Copia through the Seed Savers Exchange back in 2005. Shortly after I acquired my seeds my husband and I decided to move so I didn't plant any of the seeds that year. I didn't plant any seeds the next year either because we were still searching for the perfect new home. The next year, nothing planted because we were moving at planting time. . . . . Finally, I planted them last year, but I put them in too late and the weather got too warm. . . . . I managed to save enough seeds to plant this year. And now they are starting to bloom! Yippee!

The stems have a red tint also.

The plants are multi-stemmed and grow to about 2 to 3 feet tall. The pods are small and borne upright and have 2 to 3 medium sized green seeds. I have no idea what they taste like or how best to cook them since I've not yet grown enough to get to eat some. The tender new leaves are supposed to edible (I haven't tried them) as well as the blossoms. I've read that you can increase the yields of fava beans by snipping off the tops of the plants which will promote additional new shoots and will also direct more plant resources to the beans.

Favas are self-pollinating but seemingly irresistible to bees, especially bumble bees, so it is necessary to use some isolation techniques for seed saving purposes. The recommended isolation distance is one mile. I'm growing 2 varieties this year so I am alternately covering the 2 different varieties with row cover to keep them from crossing. I could probably keep one variety under cover and one exposed, but I like to uncover them to allow them full exposure to the sun.

For seed saving purposes or to harvest dried beans, the plants must be allowed to die and turn black. The pods will also start to turn black and start to dry, but they can be harvested before fully dry and brought inside to finish drying before shelling

This is still a very rare variety and difficult to find, although there are 4 members of the Seed Savers Exchange offering seeds in the 2009 yearbook. I also found one Canadian seed company that is offering 10 seeds for $4.95 (Canadian), yikes 50 cents a seed! Perhaps a more thorough internet search would lead to more sources, but I think I'll save my own.


  1. What an interesting, informative post. I learned something new today! Now, I have a purpose in my life (well, in its gardening part) - to find and plant crimson flowering fava! Thank you so much, Michelle!

  2. Michelle,

    Been following your blog for a few weeks or so. Never grew any kind of flava, these red flowering ones really do look great. I'll be looking into some kind of flava beans perhaps this weekend.

  3. Beautiful - ornamental and delicious! Yes, I think it's true that if you pinch out the tops of broad beans (favas) the pods fill out more and in areas where you may get black fly it seems to help prevent this too, as the black fly like the top tender leaves.

    I'm going to look out for these purple flowered beans for next year as I haven't seen them before.

  4. I think it is wonderful that you seek out the rare plants to grow. If not you, then who?

  5. Tatyana, how fun that I've inspired you to try something new! Unfortunately I have almost no seeds left otherwise I would have sent you a few. Good luck in your search.

    Randy, even if you only grow them for ornamental purposes, these favas are worth a search. But I like any fava, especially the ones for harvesting green. Hope you like them too!

    Chaiselongue, I read somewhere that the crimson fava is less attractive to black fly (aphids) and indeed, last year only a couple of the plants became infested even though I kept them growing until very late in the season. I think I will also try snipping the tops off a few plants to see what happens.

    Daffodil Planter, thanks!

    Susan, thank you. And perhaps some of the crazy people who read my blog will try some of these oddities as well. But yes, definitely me. . . I just can't help myself! I think half the fun is the hunt for the seeds. It's like a treasure hunt. And as I hone my seed saving skills then I can share. Even more fun!

  6. I have to remember to stop by your site more often! Your posts are always so informative and constantly have me yearning to try new veggies. I would have never guessed fava's are such a pretty plant.

  7. Never heard of flava before. It's fun to grow rare and less notorious plants, ain't it! Great post Michelle.

  8. Ang, the crimson fava is so pretty, I almost put it in the flower beds this year.

    Changramouli, it is fun to be different!

  9. You're right! What a great combination, pretty and edible... You're almost tempting me.

  10. Hi Michelle I love your photo suite today, I have never seen favas that beautiful. I'm so glad to see all your lovely veggies it is very inspiring.

    I wish you a great and sunny weekend in the garden.


  11. Hi Town Mouse, And they're good for the soil too. Hard to beat!

    Tyra, thank you! I hope you have a lovely sunny weekend too.

  12. Wonderful! Wow! WANT! :)

    Are these red flowers fragrant as well? (I didn't know fava flowers were fragrant until you told me in blog comments, and I'm very glad that you mentioned it--thank you.)

    I feel certain that I've eaten fava beans before, but for the life of me I cannot remember anything about them.

  13. Chuck, I'm trying to save seeds this year, so 'round about May or June I may have a few seeds to spare... But, if you just can't wait, I noticed when I was cruising around (new seed company in Sonoma carrying open pollinated heirlooms)that they have Crimson Fava seeds available. I ordered a few things from them and my order came in 2 days and they sent me a freebie! And btw, I am in no way associated with them.

  14. Oh, now you tell me. :)

    I found the Canadian company last night, and ordered from them, paying the 50 cents per bean. (I am an addict.)

    Thanks for the tip about too.

  15. Chuck, will I be seeing you at the next meeting of Seed Junkies Anonymous? I know, I know, I know.....


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