A brief history of the fava bean

Archaeological findings of the small-grained Vicia faba seeds from a Stone Age settlement in Israel indicate that the fava bean (also known internationally as the fava bean/faba bean) was domesticated in the Middle East as early as the 6th millennium BC.

About 5,000 years ago, Neolithic farmers also brought fava beanto us in Central Europe, but these were cultivated there in much smaller quantities than primitive cereals such as emmer and naked barley. The North Sea coast became a focus for cultivation because the fava bean prefers areas with nutrient-rich soils in a wet climate (marshes of rivers and lakes) and, as the only legume, thrives well on the saline soils near the coast.


The fava bean thrives most safely in areas with nutrient-rich soils in humid climates (marshes of rivers and lakes)

Fava beans remained an important part of our peasant diet in particular until the Middle Ages because they were a high-protein, high-fiber food that was easy to grow, stored well, and eaten year-round. Like dried peas, such beans were often boiled, mashed, roasted, or cooked in soups, stews, and porridge.

The prosperity of the rural population grew since the Middle Ages, agriculture became more productive and food storage improved. As a result, meat and dairy products became more widely available and eventually largely replaced beans and other legumes as the main source of protein.

The Black Death, the plague, also played a role. The severely depleted population gained access to more and more agricultural resources. Only those who could not afford meat had to continue eating beans, which led to the stigmatization of beans as a food for the poor.

However, fava beans still remained widespread in the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa, where they are still the main ingredient in dishes such as “Ful Medames”, “Falafel” or “Egyptian-style Ta’amia”.

Meanwhile, fava beanare being rediscovered in Europe as a local food source for humans and also as an alternative to imported soy products that damage Latin American virgin forests.

Like all legumes, fava bean is a low-input crop. It also adds fertility to the soil by fixing atmospheric nitrogen through symbiotic relationships with soil bacteria. As a result, it contributes to healthy soils and biodiversity and is an excellent catch crop to prevent the development of pests and diseases in cereals.