Home Pulses Fava Beans (Vicia faba)

Fava Beans (Vicia faba)


(Pulses Sprout)

The cultivation of fava beans is so old that there is no known wild form of this bean. It has been used in Chinese cooking for at least 5,000 years.

The fava bean, also known as faba bean, horse bean and broad bean, was the only bean known in Europe until the discovery of the New World.

Scientists have discovered that fresh fava beans helps to fight Parkinson's disease.

Excellent source of folate and a good source of fiber.

Easy Sprouting and Cooking

Sprout and remove tough skin before cooking. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 40 minutes.

Best Uses

Lovely in soups and salads. Puree for tasty dips.
Fava Bean Sprouts contain ten times more L-Dopa than un-sprouted beans. These beans have an age old reputation as a aphrodisiac.

Fava Beans are a natural source of Levodopa - prolongs "On" Periods in patients with Parkinson Disease.

Fava Beans (Vicia faba)

Faba beans probably originated in the Near East in late Neolithic times. By the Bronze Age they had spread at least to Northern Italy and have been found in several lakeside dwellings in Switzerland. The earliest findings in Britain date back to the Iron Age at Glastonbury. They were widely cultivated in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.

In ancient Egypt they were mostly eaten by the common people. The upper classes considered them unworthy and, unlike lentils, they have not been found in the tombs or depicted on frescoes.

Faba beans are mentioned several times in ancient Greek Literature, e.g., the Iliad by Homer written in the 8th to 9th century talks of faba beans. The Greeks apparently associated the little black spot on the hilum with death and although the beans were sometimes offered in sacrifices to Apollo, the priests were strictly forbidden to eat or even to mention its name.

Pythagoras (a Greek philosopher in the 6th century B.C) refused to walk through fields of faba beans and forbade his disciples to eat them. He is said to have met his death at the hands of the people of Crotonia in Ancient Bratium (Italy). Pursued by them, he came to the edge of a bean field and, rather than set foot in it, was caught and killed. It is probable that he was prone to favism - a disease which is almost entirely confined to genetically susceptible people of Mediterranean origin. Favism occurs when such individuals consume faba beans or inhale the pollen.

Unlike the Egyptians and Greeks, the Romans held the faba bean in much higher esteem. The Elder Pliny in 'Naturalist Historiae' gives faba beans the highest place of honor among legumes. He speaks of 'Lomentum' (bean meal) as being mixed with wheat or millet flour in the baking of bread to make the loaves heavier. It is probable that the Latin word for bread ('panis'; Italian 'pane' or French 'pain') comes from the Greek word for faba bean, 'puanos'.

All the prominent writers on Roman agriculture mention faba beans, e.g., Cato the Censor, Columella and Varro.

Apicius in the 1st century A.D. in his book 'De Re Conquinaria' (the world's oldest surviving cookbook) mentions a number of dishes made from faba bean - shelled and in the pod, boiled and fried. He gives the recipe for a special purée of bean meal mixed with fish stock (Liquamen), oil and herbs (especially cumin and coriander).

Romans also used faba beans in sacrifices to the goddess Carna.

In the Middle Ages faba beans were consumed throughout Europe and they were the only beans known to Europeans before the discovery of America in 1492.

Faba beans are mentioned in several old herbals, for example Gerard in the 16th century. Nicholas Culpeper, the 17th century astrologer/physician, stated that "They are plants of Venus and the distilled water of the flower of garden beans is good to clean the face and skin from spots and wrinkles ...
Flour of beans and fenugreek mixed with honey, and applied to felons, biles, bruises, or blue marks by blows, or the imposthumes in the kernels of the ears, helpeth them all, and with rose leaves, frankincense, and the white of an egg, being applied to the eyes, helpeth them that are swollen or do water, or have received any blows upon them, if used in wine".

It has often been mentioned in folk-lore. The bean in the fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk" may well have been a faba bean. In the fairy tale". The straw, the coal and the bean" by the Brothers Grimm we learn how the bean got her black stripe. She laughed so hard at the antics of the burning coal and straw as they fell into the river that she split her sides laughing. A tailor was passing and sewed her up but ever since then the bean has had a black stripe because the tailor used black thread for the stitching.
There is also an ancient custom of including a whole bean in a special cake baked especially on Twelfth Night (see recipe). The person who receives the piece with the bean in it is proclaimed king for the night.

Faba beans are now cultivated in many temperate regions of the world and at higher elevations in some subtropical areas. They are now popular in many countries of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia and in certain Far Eastern countries, especially China, which now grows almost two-thirds of the world's production of the crop. In Italy there is a 'fava' (faba) season in the spring - people out walking, pick them wild and eat a few raw. They were probably introduced into the New World by the Spanish but have never found great popularity there except in certain Andean countries of Latin America.

Faba bean seeds are very variable in shape and size from stongly compressed to nearly globular. They can be white, green, yellow, buff, brown, purple, black or mottled. The most common for human consumption are buff or brown. Their botanical name is Vicia faba but they can also be sold as Windsor beans, broadbeans, horse beans, field beans, tick beans, faba beans or pigeon beans.

They are available in a number of forms:

  • fresh in pod
  • frozen, shelled faba beans
  • dried large-seeded faba beans*
  • small-seeded faba beans* - the
  • Egyptian 'ful mdamas'
  • tinned 'ful mdamas' and green faba beans

* Both types of dried faba beans can also be sold whole or skinned and split (decorticated)


The dried faba bean contains about 25% protein. The bulk of the seed is made up of carbohydrates (about 50%) and it has less than 2% oil. It also contains calcium and iron. Fresh faba beans are good dietary source of protein and in addition contain the vitamins riboflavin and vitamin C.


Dried faba beans can be kept almost indefinitely. Frozen (see method), they can be stored for about 1 year. Tinned faba bean last well for up to 5 years as do bottled faba beans (see method). Once podded, fresh faba beans can be stored, covered, for 1-2 days in the fridge.

Basic Preparation

Very young beans are small and tender. Such delicate pods can be cooked and eaten in the pods like a mange tout pea. More mature beans are shelled before cooking. A black line on the bean is a sign of age and toughness and it is better skinned before serving.

To cook fresh faba beans, put them in a little boiling salted water with a little parsley or winter savory, cook until tender: about 8 minutes when young but longer when older. Serve with melted butter and parsley, white sauce, cream, parsley or onion sauce (see recipes). Allow ½
- ¾ lb (200-300 g) per person.

Dried faba beans should be soaked overnight in four times as much cold water as beans. The cooking time depends on the locality in which they were grown and their age. Small faba beans should be tender after boiling in water for 20-30 minutes; large beans take about 10 minutes longer.




Broadbeans, (Fava beans), mature seads, raw


Scientific Name: Vicia faba

Nutrient Units Value per
100 grams of
edible portion
Water g 10.98 100
Energy kcal 341 0
Energy kj 1427 0
Protein g 26.12 104
Total lipid (fat) g 1.53 101 0.113
Ash g 3.08 102
Carbohydrate, by difference g 58.30 0
Fiber, total dietary g 25.0 0
Calcium, Ca mg 103 31
Iron, Fe mg 6.70 30
Magnesium, Mg mg 192 10
Phosphorus, P mg 421 29
Potassium, K mg 1062 8 61.434
Sodium, Na mg 13 5
Zinc, Zn mg 3.14 10
Copper, Cu mg 0.824 10
Manganese, Mn mg 1.626 8 0.148
Selenium, Se mcg 8.2 0
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid mg 1.4 1
Thiamin mg 0.555 11
Riboflavin mg 0.333 12
Niacin mg 2.832 11
Pantothenic acid mg 0.976 8 0.070
Vitamin B-6 mg 0.366 8 0.010
Folate, total mcg 423 8 33.794
Folic acid mcg 0 0
Folate, food mcg 423 8 33.794
Folate, DFE mcg_DFE 423 0
Vitamin B-12 mcg 0.00 0
Vitamin A, IU IU 53 9
Retinol mcg 0 0
Vitamin A, RAE mcg_RAE 3 9 0.000
Vitamin E mg_ATE 0.090 0
Fatty acids, total saturated g 0.254 0
4:0 g 0.000 0
6:0 g 0.000 0
8:0 g 0.000 0
10:0 g 0.000 0
12:0 g 0.004 0
14:0 g 0.002 0
16:0 g 0.204 0
18:0 g 0.031 0
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated g 0.303 0
16:1 undifferentiated g 0.002 0
18:1 undifferentiated g 0.297 0
20:1 g 0.000 0
22:1 undifferentiated g 0.000 0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated g 0.627 0
18:2 undifferentiated g 0.581 0
18:3 undifferentiated g 0.046 0
18:4 g 0.000 0
20:4 undifferentiated g 0.000 0
20:5 n-3 g 0.000 0
22:5 n-3 g 0.000 0
22:6 n-3 g 0.000 0
Cholesterol mg 0 0
Phytosterols mg 124 0
Amino acids
Tryptophan g 0.247 32
Threonine g 0.928 63
Isoleucine g 1.053 63
Leucine g 1.964 63
Lysine g 1.671 66
Methionine g 0.213 176
Cystine g 0.334 146
Phenylalanine g 1.103 63
Tyrosine g 0.827 60
Valine g 1.161 63
Arginine g 2.411 64
Histidine g 0.664 62
Alanine g 1.070 54
Aspartic acid g 2.916 54
Glutamic acid g 4.437 54
Glycine g 1.095 61
Proline g 1.099 48
Serine g 1.195 54

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 15 (August 2002)

Fava Beans, Levodopa, and Parkinson's Disease
by Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD

Ms. Holden is a registered dietitian specializing in Parkinson's disease. She has published research, books, articles, and manuals on nutrition and PD, including "Eat well, stay well with PD." For more information you may call (USA) 877-565-2665, or 970-224-5066; or visit her website: http://www.nutritionucanlivewith.com/

Beans and Parkinson's disease

In the past few years, I've been increasingly asked for information about fava beans as a source of levodopa. It's clear that many people are trying fava beans without fully understanding their properties. This article is designed to answer questions that have arisen about fava and Parkinson's disease (PD). I hope this may clear up some of the confusion about the bean, and encourage people to discuss its use with their doctors and dietitians.
This bean is a legume called "fava" (fah-vuh), faba, broad bean, and horse bean. Its botanical name is "Vicia faba." There are many species of faba; however, the "faba major"is the bean of concern here. It grows in a long pod, like a giant green bean, with large, flat seeds inside. It has been eaten for thousands of years throughout the world, especially in the Mediterranean region.

How are fava beans related to PD?

Fava beans contain levodopa, the same chemical in Sinemet, Madopar, Dopar, Larodopa, and other levodopa-containing medicines used to treat PD. In fact, the entire fava plant, including leaves, stems, pods, and immature beans, contains levodopa.

The amount of levodopa can vary greatly, depending on the species of fava, the area where it's grown, soil conditions, rainfall, and other factors. It appears that the young pod and the immature (green) beans inside the pod contain the greatest amount of levodopa, and the mature, or dried bean, the least. Three ounces (about 84 grams or ½ cup) of fresh green fava beans, or three ounces of canned green fava beans, drained, may contain about 50-100 mg of levodopa. If using the young pod as well as the beans, the amount of levodopa may be greater than that in the fresh beans alone.

What effect do fava beans have on PD?

Some small studies have shown that the levodopa in fava beans can help control the symptoms of PD, just as medications containing levodopa do. In fact, a few people report that the effects from fava last longer than the effects from medications. Some researchers believe fava beans may contain other substances besides levodopa that could be helpful.

However, although some people report good effects, others find no antiparkinson effect from fava beans at all; and still others report adverse effects, such as nausea and dyskinesia. Much more research needs to be done to determine how effective fava beans may be.

Are there any problems associated with eating fava beans?
Yes, there a number of concerns to be aware of:
Variable levodopa amounts. Because fava plants have varying amounts of levodopa, it's possible to get either too much or too little levodopa. Too little levodopa will not relieve PD symptoms; and too much levodopa can cause overmedication effects, such as dyskinesia - particularly if other PD medications are being used at the same time. Also, the levodopa can cause nausea in some people.
Allergies. Raw fava beans can produce an allergic reaction in some people, including discomfort, and occasionally, coma. Cooking may prevent allergic reactions.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) use. Another consideration is the use of fava for people who take MAOIs. These include: isocarboxazid (Marplan); phenelzine (Nardil); tranylcypromine (Parnate); and selegiline (deprenyl, Carbex, Eldepryl).

MAOIs taken in combination with pressor agents (foods high in dopamine, tyramine and phenylethylamine), can bring about a dangerous, and sometimes fatal, increase in blood pressure. Levodopa in medications or in fava can convert to dopamine in the bloodstream. It should be noted that selegiline is a different type of MAOI (MAOI-type B), and in the amount normally used by people with PD (10 mg daily), it is not thought to pose a risk when used with dopamine. However, people using any MAOI should discuss foods containing pressor agents with their physicians and dietitians.

Favism (G6PD deficiency). Favism is an inherited disease in which a person lacks an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD). When these people eat fava beans, they develop a condition called hemolytic anemia. This anemia causes red blood cells to break apart and block blood vessels. When such blockage occurs in the kidneys, it can result in kidney failure and even death. Although favism is usually detected in childhood, adults can be affected as well.

G6PD deficiency is rare, occurring mostly among people of Mediterranean, African, and Southeast Asian descent, but others can be affected as well. Your physician can perform a blood test for G6PD to determine whether you are at risk. If you find you have inherited G6PD deficiency, your dietitian can help you locate other foods that may be of concern, and can help you plan safe and healthful menus.