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Bible Plants

Vicia fava, broadbean. Flowering.

A great emphasis is placed on food in the Bible. One of the major ministries of Jesus, along with teaching, healing and casting out demons, was providing food. Yet, remarkably little is said about vegetables in the Bible. This does not mean that they were less important than they are today, only that their description is not essential for the biblical narrative. Only two vegetables, lentils and beans, are specifically mentioned in the land.

Daniel, captive to both the Babylonians and God's favor, requested a vegetable and water diet (Daniel 1:12). The only vegetable garden in the Bible is that designed by the evil king Ahab from property violently seized from Naboth the Jezreelite (I Kings 21). Ahab wanted to take Naboth's vineyard and convert it into a vegetable garden. This seems unusual since the Jezreel valley is very fertile and many sites could serve as a garden. It is no doubt a reflection on Ahab's greed and selfishness, spurred on by his wife Jezebel, rather than agricultural need.


There are many different kinds of beans and it is not certain which bean is meant in II Samuel 17: 27-28 and Ezekiel 4: 9. However, based on archaeological data as well as current usage, it is likely that these are broadbeans, Vicia fava. Broadbeans are a staple in the Nile Valley where they are the traditional breakfast food and are also widely cultivated throughout the Middle East. Perhaps because we have a number of legumes- peas, green beans, black-eyes, etc- broadbeans are seldom sold in the United States except in stores specializing in Middle East foods. Like other legumes, they are very nutritious and contain important proteins as well as fiber and carbohydrates. After soaking to soften the hard seed coat, broadbeans are boiled and eaten plain or mashed to form a kind of gruel. They can also be used to make a coarse bread.

Sown in the late winter, broadbeans mature in the summer. The plants are large, bush like with white flowers. Young green seeds are relished in the spring and are prepared like we would butter beans or green peas. Mature beans are brown and flat in shape and like other legumes can be stored for a long time. It was no doubt from a store of dried beans that David was supplied.

The reference in Ezekiel substantiates the widespread use of these beans in the Middle East as they must have been readily available for "Ezekiel's bread."

Young broadbean fruits. Vicia fava. Broadbeans. Fresh beans purchased in Norfolk. Fabaceae Young broadbean fruits. Vicia fava. Broadbeans. Purchased in Amman Jordan. Fabaceae