One of the biggest animal raising expenses in the Yukon is feed. So I am always on the look out for crops we can grow that will meet the nutritional needs of the animals. When I find something that might work I give it a try in the garden. If it does well, I feed it to the animals to see if they’ll actually eat it.
A year ago I found a variety of kohlrabi. It was supposed to grow to the size of volleyballs. I thought this might be a good food for the pigs. The plants did very well, and they did grow to the size of a volleyball. They even remained crisp and juicy at this large size. The pigs ate them. Over the years I have tried several different kinds of crops. Mangels, a cousin of beets typically used for animal feed, did grow but not as well as their relative. So I might as well grow beets.
Quinoa grew well but didn’t have time to ripen properly. It also looks almost exactly like the lamb’s quarter that grows wild in some of the gardens.
Despite the failures, I keep looking. A few years ago I was discussing this issue with my dad and he suggested fava beans. When he was farming on the prairies he grew them as a source of protein, but he wasn’t sure if they would do well this far north.
I gave them a try.
I placed them at the top of the garden where the plants would be protected from wind and get lots of sun. This area also got so hot the weeds tended to dry to a crisp.
The fava beans loved it. They weren’t bothered by the heat and soon flowered. The bean pods grew to be about 6 inches long. It all seemed like it would work but by the time the pods were at their mature size it was too late in the fall to properly ripen. I tried to pick them green and dry the beans, but they got moldy instead. Our season just didn’t seem long enough.
So I kept looking. This past year I decided to give the fava beans one more try. Instead of planting them after the danger frost was gone, we put them in at the same time as we planted the peas. I hoped they would be able to deal with the colder spring. To my surprise not only did they survive, they flowered before the peas.
Allan said he had been in the garden weeding the peas and had to look around because he smelled such a strong perfume-y smell. We thought at first the pea flowers were giving off this smell but they never had before. It wasn’t until we were in the fava bean patch that we discovered they were producing a wonderful sweet perfume. They even had small pods starting.
It looks like the fava beans might grow to maturity. Only one question remains — will the animals like the taste of this new food?