Broad beans are native to the Mediterranean area. The plants grow up to 7 feet tall and produce up to 60 pods that are as long as 18 inches on each plant. Each pod may have up to 12 large beans, according to Washington State University. It can take up to five months for this annual, cool-season bean to grow and mature.
Broad beans (Vicia faba) belong to the Fabaceae, or pea, family and are known as broad beans because of their large, flat shape. Some other names of broad beans include Windsor bean, English bean, horse bean, European bean, pigeon bean and fava bean.
As enumerated by the University of Florida, there are several varieties of broad beans. These include Bell, Brunette, Aquadulce, Relon, Witkiem Major, Minica and Toto.
Broad beans are an edible natural product that is cooked as a vegetable in meals or dried, roasted and ground as a coffee substitute or additive. In agriculture, broad beans are planted as a cover crop and are used to feed poultry and livestock, according to Washington State University.
Eat broad beans in moderation. According to the University of Florida, a condition known as favism, which causes a type of paralysis, can occur if these beans are consumed regularly. Washington State University states that favism is an inherited enzyme deficiency condition in some people that affects them if they consume raw or partially cooked broad beans.
Michigan State University also states that uncooked broad beans (fava beans) can cause allergies in some people, and eating these beans raw can have adverse health effects.
Broad beans can be infected by the broad bean wilt fabavirus, which is transmitted by several types of insects. The virus causes the plant to wilt and its leaves become mottled and disfigured, and it can eventually inhibit the growth of the plant. According to the University of Idaho, this virus is also known by other names including tropaeolum ringspot virus and catalpa chlorotic leaf spot virus.
Broad beans are also affected by a fungal disease called "chocolate spot," which is caused by Botrytis fabae. In moist conditions, this fungus may cause brown spots to form on and damage the plant's pods and leaves, according to Washington State University. Insects such as broad bean weevils and aphids not only affect the production of broad bean plants, they can also serve as hosts to viral diseases that also cause damage to the plant.