Actually a vetch, this cool-weather crop matures in early summer, when other beans are just getting started.
When to Start: early spring (in USDA Zones 9 and warmer, plant in fall)
At Their Best: early summer
Time to Complete: 30 minutes for sowing
Peg out a length of string and make holes along its length, 1 to 2 inches deep, 4 to 6 inches apart, and drop a single seed into the base of each one. Mark out and sow successive rows at 12-inch intervals. Refill the holes with soil and water the seeds in well.
Fava beans can grow up to 4 feet tall and become heavily laden with pods, which can cause the plants to collapse. To prevent this, support the plants by using garden stakes and string to make an open frame around them, particularly in windy areas.
To reduce the risk of aphid damage, snap off the soft tips of the bean plants once they have started to produce pods.
Fava beans are usually ready to harvest 2-1/2 months after planting. Check the pods regularly, and pick them once they're clearly swollen with beans but still look glossy. Once the pods turn leathery, the beans inside are still edible but tough.
Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010