September is the time to clean up old plant debris and amend your garden soil with compost.
Then, in the San Joaquin Valley, it’s best to sow fava bean seeds from mid-October to December. The fava bean plant is resistant to frost damage down to 21 degrees Fahrenheit.
Seeds should be planted about 1 to 2 inches deep for large varieties and 3 to 5 inches apart. Allow 2 to 3 feet between rows and water regularly. Germination takes place in seven to 14 days.
Fava beans grow to be bushy plants from 2 to 7 feet tall. In windy conditions, they benefit from support. In my garden, I’m going to use a few garden stakes and twine to make an open frame around the plants.
Keep an eye out for aphids or bean weevils that might like to feast on your developing plants. If you see any leaf damage and don’t know what to do, look on the California Statewide Integrated Pest Management website at www.ipm.ucdavis.edu for more information. It’s an excellent resource.
Your crop will take 4 to 5 months to mature, depending on when you plant them. You can have a continuous harvest if you plant a crop in mid-October and plant another in two weeks, and so on, until December. Then you’ll have fava beans in your spring garden from March until May.
In spring, select large pods when they are green, thick and have a glossy sheen. The raw beans can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two. To cook, remove the beans from the pods and then hull the beans. The hull is the thin outer coat around each seed.
Fresh fava beans can be cooked in boiling salted water for 20 to 25 minutes in a covered saucepan. Add your favorite herbs and seasonings. Young, small beans can be cooked without hulling.
Source: University of California, Small Farm Program, Farm Advisers, San Joaquin County, G.. Hickmand and M. Canevari.
• The Green Thumb is a column by Tracy’s master gardeners. University of California-certified master gardeners are available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.