Vicia faba, also known as the broad bean, fava bean, faba bean, field bean, bell bean, English bean, horse bean, Windsor bean, pigeon bean and tic (k) bean, is a species of flowering plant in the vetch and pea family Fabaceae.
The origin of this legume is obscure, but it had been cultivated in the Middle East for 8,000 years before it spread to Western Europe. Fava or Broad beans have been found in the earliest human settlements. The remains are reported to have been found in Egyptian tombs. They probably originated in the Near East during the Neolithic Age and by the Bronze Age had spread to Northern Italy.
They have been found in lakeside settlements in Switzerland and in Britain at Glastonbury. In Egypt, the beans were considered commoner food and were shunned by the upper classes. Fava beans were cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. In ancient Rome, they were used in funeral rites. Pythagoras forbade the eating of fava beans because they contained the souls of the dead. This once forbidden bean is also related toFavism, a genetic deficiency affecting Jews and other descendant of the Mediterranean. Initiates of the Eleusinian mysteries would drink the kicking and visit the home of Kyamites, the Greek demigod of Fava beans.
In parts of the English-speaking world, the name “broad bean” is used for the large-seeded cultivars grown for human food, while “horse barn” and “field bean” refer to cultivars with smaller, harder seeds (more like the wild species) used for animal feed, though their stronger flavor is preferred in some human food recipes, such as falafel. The term “fava bean” (from the Italian valve, meaning “broad bean”) is used in other English-speaking countries such as the US and of course in Italy. “Broad bean” is the most common name in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.