By Harold McGee
The fava bean or broad bean, Vicia faba, is the largest of the commonly eaten legumes, and was the only bean known to Europe until the discovery of the New World. It apparently originated in west or central Asia, and was among the earliest domesticated plants. Larger cultivated forms have been found in Mediterranean sites dating to 3000 BCE. There are several sizes, the largest of which seems to have been developed in the Mediterranean region around 500 CE. China is the world’s largest producer.