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I’ve been inspired by roadside signs along Highway 20 in Lake County that read in Burma-shave fasion: Save Your Soul! Repent! Jesus Saves! When my husband and I read these, we chuckle and say to each other: Save Your Soil! Replant! Save Seed! We think of fava beans. I’m not saying fava is God, but favas are amazing! The bacteria in the soil accumulates atmospheric nitrogen on the favas roots and fixes it in the soil via nitrogen nodules. The beans and flowers are edible, and can be grown during the winter gardening season to build soil for spring and summer crops.
We’ve been saving fava seed for nearly 20 years. They are an important part of our garden’s soil fertility program, as well as an enjoyable food source for our family. We allocate 1/3 of the fava crop for eating, 1/3 for compost crop (via the method below) and 1/3 for bean harvest.
Instead of importing bagged soil and nitrogen-rich soil amendments, plant heirloom fava seeds as a fall/winter cover crop once the rains come. The following method is an easy, no-till approach to building fertility and boosting organic matter in your soil. Onions and spring greens thrive when planted into garden beds that have received this treatment.
1. Soak fava beans overnight with water & inoculant (Rhizobium leguminosarum viciae). Inoculant is not necessary, however it encourages formation of high-nitrogen nodules on roots for richer soil, bigger plants & better yields.
2. Plant favas at 1/4 pound per 100 sq. ft.
3. When ½ the fava plant is in flower, cut down entire plant at the base, leaving roots in the ground so nitrogen nodules can release into soil. Leave the cut favas in place and cover with amendments like biochar and trace minerals followed by 2” of compost; keep moist to aid decomposition. Garden bed will be ready for planting in 4-8 weeks from cutting under.
After the excruciating drought and Lodge Lightening Complex fire that got so close to Polcum Springs this summer, I am delighted that the rains have returned. It is wet. It is cold. We are slightly above average for rainfall to date. And…the mushrooms are out! Matsutake are in abundance. Prized in Japanese cuisine, many of my friends aren’t so fond of them. Maybe its their smell: a mix of red hot candies and dirty socks.
Sauteing them doesn’t bring out their best, but Matsutake chips are delicious! After cleaning the mushrooms, I slice them in 1/8″ slices and baste them lightly with olive oil, then cook them in the top shelf of the oven at about 375 degrees until brown on one side. Then I flip them, sprinkle with good sea salt (more basting is not needed) and serve as crispy chips. Yum! If you want to use them as a pizza topping, brown only lightly, leaving some moisture in them.