Monthly Archives: February 2009

Fanfare for Favas

A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” – Hannibal Lecter


Thanks to Anthony Hopkin’s famous line in the movie Silence of the Lambs (1991), fava beans have gotten about as much respect in recent years as Rodney Dangerfield. That’s a shame because this exquisite heirloom bean has a nutty, buttery flavor and is a true gourmet delight.


It has been known by many names, including Faba beans, Broad beans, Pigeon beans, Horse beans, English beans, and Windsor beans.


Popular in the Mediterranean and Asia for centuries, favas may also have been grown by ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. The fava bean was the only bean that Europeans ate until other varieties were discovered in the Americas. In cooler areas of Europe, it was a food staple until potatoes became more popular. Early American colonists grew plenty of favas, but the lima bean became preferred over it in warmer areas of the country as time went on.


There are many ways to harvest and eat fava beans:


`      You can pick the young pods when they are 2”-3” long and eat them whole or sliced and uncooked like a snap bean, or you can boil the pods (which will give them an “okra-like” texture).

`      The most flavorful way of eating them is to shell them when the beans are still light green inside the pod (Beans are at the peak of flavor just before the hilums (the saddle shaped scar at the end of the seeds turns brown.). Cook the shelled beans immediately (or after storing the refrigerator for a few days) by boiling them quickly, just until the beans no longer float. Then, peel off the outer whitish bean shell and eat the YUMMY green beans inside. (A little labor intensive, but worth it!) If you like eating boiled edamame beans, you will love trying favas this way.

`      You can leave some pods on the plant until the seeds are dry inside then store the dried beans for later use. Dried beans can be boiled like any other type of bean or used in soups and stews.

`      The leaves of the fava plant are also edible. You can pinch off the young tips for salads or cook the foliage like spinach.


There are some important cautions regarding fava beans. They contain a lot of tyramine and should not be eaten by anyone taking monamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors. There are also some people with a hereditary condition causing G6PD enzyme deficiency (sometimes called, “favism”) that can cause a potentially fatal reaction if they ingest fava beans.



Growing Favas


Unlike other bean varieties that require a very warm growing period, Favas are a legume and prefer conditions similar to peas. They won’t set pods well in temperatures over 65 degrees, but they are very cold tolerant and will withstand temperatures as low as 20 to 25 degrees. They can be planted in very early spring when soil temperatures are as low as 35-40 degrees. (A simple gauge for planting is to sow “when the crocus emerge”.)  In areas with mild winters, you can sow them in fall for a winter harvest, and the plants may be covered with straw or mulch, allowing the roots to over winter and produce again the following season.


Fava beans do not grow like bush or pole type bean varieties. The 2’-3’ (may get as tall as 6’ in an ideal growing environment) tall plants grow upright and usually do not require staking unless you are in a very windy area. The black and white tipped flowers are quite beautiful and fragrant, attracting beneficial insects. Each 6”-8” long pod contains 5 to 7 beans.


Favas are also a great cover crop. They fix nitrogen in the soil and thus enrich it. Their extensive root system can help break up heavy soils and bring nutrients up from deeper areas.


Be sure to soak the seeds in water for 12-24 hours before sowing to encourage germination. As with peas, you can treat the seed with a Rhizobium inoculant before sowing, but it is not necessary.












Symbolic Seeds

With so many weddings taking place in the spring and summer, we thought it would be appropriate to address the topic. Even if you aren’t planning a wedding, I’m sure you will find this information interesting! It’s always fun to read about the history of different plants.
Seed Packets for Weddings
Seed packets make beautiful ‘green’ wedding favors and will inspire your guests to plant something beautiful in remembrance of your love and commitment.
We can usually accommodate orders for as much as 100 or 200 packets (or more) for wedding favors of any variety all year. Though you can choose any variety from our line, the packets on this page make especially nice wedding favors. Many of them have historical significance for romance and weddings. 
Marjoram – Ancient Greek and Roman brides and attendants added marjoram to their bridal crowns and nosegays. Called, ‘Joy of the Mountain’ (from the Greek word for oregano), it was said to promote happiness and marital bliss. Marjoram was also a favorite herb of the Greek goddess, Aphrodite. It was said that if a girl put marjoram on her bed, Aphrodite would visit her and reveal her future spouse. Even today, in some areas of Europe, girls put marjoram in their hope chests.
Rosemary – Ancient Greek brides wore rosemary in their bridal crowns. And it has been used as a traditional symbol of remembrance and fidelity ever since. In the Middle Ages, sprigs of gold-dipped rosemary tied with a ribbon were popular wedding favors and were meant to symbolize the fact that the bride and groom were starting a new life, but would never forget their past acquaintances. English brides also wore it on their veils as a symbol of love and marriage. “There’s rosemary that’s for remembrance.  Pray, you love, remember.” —William Shakespeare. 
Cupid’s Dart – The botanical name, Catanache, comes from a Latin word meaning ‘strong incentive’. The ancient Greeks and Romans once used this flower in love potions.
Forget Me Not – This flower name is an English translation of the French, ‘ne m’oubliez pas’. There is a legend from the Middle Ages about a knight and his lady who were walking near a river. He was picking flowers for her, and wearing heavy armor when he accidentally fell in the river. Before he sunk below the water, he threw the flowers to her, shouting, “Forget me not!”  Lovers wore Forget Me Nots in 15th century Germany to remember each other when they were apart. Since these times, the flower has been associated with romance, faithfulness, and everlasting love. (Also see Forget Me Not Victoria Blue and Forget Me Not Victoria Pink)
Lavender  – Symbolizes love and devotion. In the Middle Ages, this popular herb was thought to be both an aphrodisiac and a promoter of fidelity. 
Pansies – The name “Pansy” actually comes from the French, ‘pensée’, meaning ‘thought’ or ‘remembrance’ which may be due to the way the flowers look like faces and often have their heads bowed a little as if they are thinking. The early pansies (called Heartsease) usually had three colors in each blossom, making them a symbol of the Trinity, and thus the first wedding anniversary. In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the juice from a pansy was used as a love potion.
Sweet Peas – The common meaning of sweet peas is ‘blissful pleasure’. They were popular in Edwardian England (during the reign of King Edward VII 1901-1910) for weddings.
Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for flight
With wings of gentle flusho’er delicate white,
And taper fingers catching at all things
To bind them all about with tiny rings.—John Keats (English Romantic Poet 1795-1821)
(Recommend varieties: Sweet Pea Bouquet Blend, Sweet Pea Cupid Pink, Sweet Pea Fairytale Blend, Sweet Pea Little Sweetheart, Sweet Pea White Elegance, Sweet Pea Wedding Blush (Large Packet)
Popular flowers for Victorian Weddings:
Victorians lived during of the reign of England’s Queen Victoria (1837-1901). In this age of strict social customs, a girl or woman could silently make her feelings known to a suitor merely with the flowers held in her hand. Or, a suitor could send her a bouquet to signify his intentions. When preparing for their wedding, a bride-to-be would study the meanings of flowers before choosing varieties for her bouquet. The meaning of flowers can vary depending on the source of the information, but common themes are apparent.
(Although it is a wonderful idea to grow flowers for your wedding bouquets or décor in your own garden, it’s always a good idea to have a back up plan – such as giving away packets as a wedding favor – in case Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate)! 
Below are some common meanings of Botanical Interests flowers and herbs that have meanings that may have relevancy to your ceremony:
Baby’s Breath – Festivity
Bachelor Button – Anticipation
Basil – Best wishes
Bells of Ireland – Good Luck
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) – Encouragement
Bellflower – Humility, Constancy, Gratitude
Borage – Courage
Carnation – Fascination, Devoted Love
Celosia (Coxcomb) – Unfading Love
Cleome (Spider Flower) – Elope With Me
Coreopsis – Love at first sight, Always Cheerful
Cosmos – Peace
Daisy- Innocence, Loyal Love, Purity, Beauty
Delphinium – Boldness, Big-hearted, Fun
Daisy- Innocence, Love
Fennel – Flattery
Forget Me Not – Remember me forever, true love
Goldenrod (Solidago) – Success
Larkspur – Beautiful spirit, Levity, An Open Heart, Lightness
Lupine – Imagination
Marjoram – Joy, Happiness
Mint – Virtue, Warm Sentiment
Money Plant – Sincerity
Morning Glory – Affection
Pansy – Loving thoughts, Merriment
Poppy (Red) – Pleasure
Rosemary – Remembrance, Devotion
Sage – Gratitude, Wisdom, Great Respect, Virtue
Snapdragon – Gracious Lady, Strength
Statice – Success, Remembrance
Stock – Bonds of Affection, Happy Life, You’ll Always Be Beautiful to Me
Strawflower – Agreement
Sunflower (dwarf) – Adoration
Sweet Pea – Blissful Pleasure
Sweet William – Gallantry, Smiles
Viola (Johnny Jump Up/Heartsease) – You Occupy My Thoughts
Yarrow – Good health, Cure for Heartache
Zinnia – Friendship, Affection, Goodness
Traditional flowers for Wedding Anniversaries:
In addition to the traditional gifts like paper or clocks for a 1st anniversary or gold for a 50th anniversary, there are also traditional flowers for milestones. Flower seeds are especially nice gifts for couples who love to garden.
1st – Pansy or Carnations
2nd – Cosmos
3rd – *Fuschsia
4th – *Geranium
5th – Daisy
6th – *Calla Lily
7th – *Jack-in-the-pulpit
8th – *Clematis
9th – Poppy
10th – *Daffodil
11th – Morning Glory
12th – *Peony
13th – Hollyhock
14th – *Dahlia
15th – Rose
20th – *Day Lily
25th – *Iris
30th – Sweet Pea
40th – Nasturtium
50th – Violet
* Botanical Interests does not have seed available for this item.