What Are Horsebeans – A Guide To Horsebean Uses And Cultivation

By: Amy Grant

You may not have heard of a horsebean, but you probably have heard of a broad bean. Horsebean plants most likely hailed from the Mediterranean region and are reported to have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. If your curiosity is piqued, read on to find out how to grow horsebeans and various horsebean uses.

What are Horsebeans?

Horsebean plants, Vicia faba var. equina, are a subspecies of the broad bean proper, also known as Windsor or straight bean. They are a cool season annual that bears large, thick pods. Inside the pods, the beans are large and flat. His leafy legume has an erect habit with a stiff stem. The leaves look more akin to those of English peas than bean leaves. Small white blooms are borne in spikelets.

Horsebean Uses

Also referred to as fava bean, horsebean uses are twofold – for human consumption and for horse feed, hence the name.

The seeds of the plant are picked when the pod is full sized but before it has dried and used as a green shell bean, cooked for use as a vegetable. When used as a dry bean, the beans are picked when the pods are dry and used for both human consumption and for livestock feed.

How to Grow Horsebeans

Horsebean growing requires 4-5 months from planting to harvest. As it is a cool season crop, it is grown as a summer annual in northern climates and as a winter annual in warmer climes. In tropical regions, it can only be grown at higher altitudes. Hot, dry weather adversely affects blooming.

Horsebeans are tolerant of a variety of soil conditions but do best in well-draining heavy loam or clay-loam soil.

When growing horsebeans, plant seed 2 inches (5 cm.) deep in rows that are 3 feet (just under a meter) apart with plants spaced 3-4 (8-10 cm.) inches apart in a row. Or, plant seeds in hills using six seeds per hill with hills spaced 4 by 4 feet (1 m. x 1 m.) apart.

Provide the beans with staking or trellising.

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Growing Beans: A How-To Guide

By Anne Van Nest

Staple and comfort food icon, the bean has played an essential role in the survival of people and animals since ancient times. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence that old-world legumes (len­tils, peas, broad beans, chick peas, and soybeans) were used as food for more than 10,000 years in eastern Asia. Caches of lentils have been found in Egyptian tombs, signifying the reverence paid to this plant. In “His­tory of Legumes: Man’s Use of Legumes” (www.healthguidance.org), Jason Ladock writes that “Legumes are second only to the cereal grasses as sources of human food and ani­mal forage.”

Beans are easy to grow, and, when dry, can be stored for long periods of time without losing viability if they are kept in a cool, dry, dark environment.

Why are legumes so popular? Le­gumes, members of the bean or Fabaceae plant family, have many significant at­tributes. Beans are high in iron, potassium and magnesium, and are also an important source of protein and fiber. They are easy to grow, and, when dry, can be stored for long periods of time without losing viability if they are kept in a cool, dry, dark environment. Beside their nutritive benefits, the USDA Soil Quality Institute reports that beans have an ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen with the help of symbiotic Rhizobia bacteria living in their roots.

An inclusive term, “beans” commonly refers to large-seeded plants that include peas, soybeans, peanuts, and vetches. Beans are generally a summer crop that needs warm weather to grow (as opposed to the growing conditions of the group of plants we call peas). Other than growing tem­peratures, beans and peas are very similar.

Fava Bean Basics

The fava bean is an annual, bush-like plant. This plant lends itself to raised bed or container growing, although you must be careful that the plant does not become stunted, should it outgrow its container. Fava beans need approximately four to five months between planting and harvest. Before producing seed pods, the plant displays small white flowers with brown specks.
Sow the seeds at least 1 inch deep in fertile, loose, well-draining soil, in an area of full sun, and space the plants four to five inches apart. Keep the soil moist, especially during flowering and seed pod production, but do not over-water your fava beans. Poor companion plants for fava beans include garlic and onions. Favas thrive when planted with strawberries, celery, cucumbers, corn and potatoes.

Deciding what to grow

What to grow in the garden is as big a decision as where to locate it. Consider the following points in selecting vegetables:

Space available. Do not plant watermelons in a small garden. They take up too much room. Other vine crops such as cucumbers and cantaloupes can be grown in small gardens by trellising them on a fence some other structure.

Expected production from the crop. The smaller the garden, the more important it is to get high production from each row. Small, fast-maturing crops such as radishes, turnips and beets yield quickly and do not require much space. Tomatoes, bush beans, squash and peppers require more space but produce over a long season.

Cost of vegetables if purchased. Plant vegetables that are expensive to buy at the grocery store. Broccoli is usually one of the more expensive vegetables that can be grown in most home gardens.

Food value of vegetables. All vegetables are good, but some are more nutritious than others. Grow different kinds of vegetables to put more variety in your diet.

Personal preference. This is especially important if the garden is purely for recreation or personal enjoyment. Grow vegetables your family likes to eat.

Despite being in the ground for a very long time leeks have an enviably good level of disease and pest resistance. Crucial to keeping them healthy is crop rotation, including them in the onion family of crops.


The leek moth attacks leaves and the stem of leeks. Tiny pin prick holes with lines of light brown marking on the younger leaves are sure signs that the plants are being attacked. Leaves over two months old are rarely attacked. Click here for full details about identifying and treating leek moth.


Allium Rust attacks many plants and leeks are often affected. It's one of the easiest fungal infections to identify, leaves have lots of raised reddy-brown or yellow spots on them. Click here for our in-depth article on how to prevent and minimise the affect of this disease.


There is no cure for onion rot, all traces of the plant should be removed and thoroughly burnt. The soil will be unusable for any plants of the onion family for about eight years because this is a soil borne disease.

Because this is a disease carried in the soil, prevention consists of not importing infected soil into your garden or allotment. This often occurs by infected soil sticking to your boots and those of anyone visiting your garden or allotment.

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