Fava beans and salt water wetlands

The borders of northern parts of The Netherlands were always somewhat vague. The tidal Waddensea creates a dynamic landscape. A 'kwelder' is a low-lying part of an intertidal area that isn't regularly inundated anymore. It's both part of the sea and part of the land. But most of all it seems raw nature.
Near the little Frisian village of Paessens appearances do deceive. In prehistoric times kwelders were man-made and there are still farmers who let their cattle graze on the nutritious fields of salt-tolerant plants.

Between approximately 600 BC and 1200 AD, people were making their living on the open, unprotected salt marsh. Archeologist Mans Schepens from Groningen University wondered if you could grow fava beans (Vicia faba) on that rich, but salty ground[1]. To many archaeologists, the fact that crop cultivation was possible at all, is already quite astonishing, but in prehistoric times farmers would grow a smaller variant (Vicia faba minor) on these kwelders. They were known as paardenboon ('horsebean') in the province of Friesland en molleboon (a 'mol' being a kind of wok) in neighbouring Groningen.
Normally a kwelder is wet, cold and windy. Schepers thinks that those are simply the perfect conditions for the fava bean, because lice do not like windy conditions and slugs do not like the marshy environment.

[1] Schepers: Crop diversity in the Dutch and German terps area in 17th Conference of the International Work Group for Palaeoethnobotany - 2016


  1. In general, I try to make people aware of less well known aspects of this remarkable environment. Thanks for posting.

    All the best,