Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fava Beans

I confess. I was a fava bean virgin. I'd never eaten them before and this is the first time growing them for me. But the other day I had my first small harvest. Fava beans aren't like peas or beans. I got the hint from reading blogs of people who do grow them. They cryptically mention that you shell them not once but twice.

So I shelled them the first time. Favas have a very cool texture on the inside. Almost like cold foam. The shell is time consuming to get off, like any shelling procedure, but not too bad.

Then I was faced with a pile of the beans. I knew I was supposed to shell the bean too, but when I tried to take it off with my fingernail, it just didn't want to come. The trusty internet saved me here. I found out I'm supposed to blanch them for 30 seconds to loosen the skin. So I did that.

With a bit of trial and error I found if I snipped off the end with my fingernails on the far side of where the bean attaches to the pod, the bean will squirt right out. Above left is the pile of bean shells and to the right are the beans themselves. Fava beans have a lot of waste in them. Of the seven ounces of bean I harvested, I maybe got an ounce at the end. Maybe. I didn't weigh it.

A normal bean you are supposed to cook. There is a toxin in beans that gets deactivated when you cook it. Favas have bean in their name, so I was assuming the same in them. But many recipes have them eaten raw. It is in a different genus than beans even if it is a legume. So to taste one I just popped one in my mouth right away.

And I fell in love. Fava beans are a pain in the butt to get to, but let me tell you, they taste divine. They are a mix of tastes. I can taste pea in them and maybe a touch of bean. But the reason they are so good is the buttery flavor of them. When I was looking for how to peel them, one person described them as tasting like mozzarella. Now I don't taste that, but they taste and feel rich like something full of fat even though they don't contain much.

So all you fava bean lovers out there. What are your favorite recipes? I could just saute them plain and eat them. And they would make a fabulous hummus. They really don't require anything to make them taste good, but I can see they would add to other things.


  1. I'd like to try them someday despite the fact that I think of Silence of the Lambs when I hear "fava beans."

  2. I love fava beans and have enjoyed them through a good gardening friend who regularly grows them and is kind enough to share with me. I never grow them though! LOL! They are a bit of a space hog for the amount of actual food productiont that comes from them. I really need to figure out an area that I can use to grow them as they certainly are a most wonderful taste treat.

  3. They're complexly good, aren't they? I guess that's the reason why they've been cultivated by humans for more than 5000 years. Try them char grilled in the shell seasoned with some coarse salt and olive oil. Your fingers pick up the salt and smokey flavor as you shell and pop them in your mouth.

  4. Here in the UK, they are known as Broad beans. They can be eaten in a wide variety of ways. My wife made a delicious risotto with them with parmesan the other day. But, classically, they have a great affnity with pork of all types. I have friends round this Friday evening and as an appetiser they will get a small bowl with some small "fava" beans that have been lightly blanched. They will also have torn scraps of the best ham I can find/afford - ideally Pata Negra or Iberico ham from Spain but Parma Ham/ Prosciutto would be fine. They would be finished off with a a sheen of vinaigrette dressing, that includes sherry vinegar and a few twists of black pepper.

  5. I'm growing them for the first time this year, and everything about them has been cool--the strange growth habit, black and white blossoms, and that foamy interior! I have only opened one that was not quite ready, so your tips on shelling are timely and useful :)

  6. I've read that they don't like the heat. We have had very cool and wet springs with the first warm day of the year yesterday (above 80 F). Maybe I'll try some next spring. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Favas are great and true, they are a pain to shell but when I was young, my mother would sometimes by the really small and tender ones and cook them in a traditional onion and tomato sauce a la mid-eastern style. they were very good like that also but nothing can beat the flavor of a tender, twice shelled newly picked fava.

  8. I love growing fava beans. They are soo good for replenishing the soil. I think favas demonstrate just how smart nature is...the pod is so protected that it is like natures bubble wrap protecting the bean. I don't mind the double shelling. I have learned that if a use a knife to slice open the side of the large pod, it will also "nick" the bean inside. Then there is already a little slit in the beans shell. When I plunge the blanched beans in the ice water it is easy to squeeze the bean out of the slit.
    Best of all...last year I learned to saute the fava leaves and they make a delicious frittata!

  9. I love fava beans--I just wish I could get them planted early enough to get a good harvest. (They don't do well in the heat.) My favorite recipe is favas with flat-leaf parsley, lemon and olive oil, topped with almonds and shaved parmesan.

  10. I second Thomas's suggestion--that is my most frequent way of consuming them. I also like them gently sauteed with some garlic, some of their greens, a little chile and perhaps slivers of preserved lemon, all tossed with good pasta and olive oil. Yum.

  11. I've never grown them. I bought a pack of seeds once but ended up giving the seeds to a friend. Now you make me want to try! We get to grow them in the fall here in so cal.

  12. I don't bother removing the inner skin. Unless the beans are really old and tough this is uncecessary - and it wastes a lot of the natural fibre. My favourite way of using them is cooked and cooled and then served with mint and feta cheese, in a salad. I also like them as a hot vegetable, served with with sauce.

  13. Ok you sound very convincing. I might have a go with it next season. My father like fried salted fava bean very much. But I never liked it since I was a kid when I tasted his snacks. So it never been in the list of vegetables in our garden. Maybe it is time to be more adventerous.

  14. I'm so happy that you are so adventurous! I would not have tried them but for your review and advice! I'm betting they are a wonderful addition to a tossed salad.

  15. I have never heard them called fava beans before. I grow loads of them here in the UK and we call them 'Broad Beans'. I am actually growing a red variety this year as well as the usual green, which apparently if lightly steamed keeps the colour.
    I love eating them raw whilst still small. I don't often double pod them, but it seems to be the 'In thing' that some top chefs have been doing lately.
    I'm glad you have discovered them as they are so delicious and quite versatile. Lot's of recipies can be googled.

  16. Karen, they are delicious.

    Laura, they do take up a lot of space. I haven't figured out how productive they are yet as they are just now started to produce. I'm wondering how I can give them more space next year I'll have to see.

    Thomas, that sounds really delicious. If the rain ever stops I might try that.

    James, Oh yum. When you said pork all I could think about was the pulled pork I just made. And it would totally overwhelm the fava beans. But ham seems like a nice pairing.

    S, my first one I picked wasn't quite ready either. But not having grown them I didn't know how large they would grow.

    GoneferalinID, Wow we have had several days in the 90s already. Though compared to last year we have been cold. Last year was so unusual.

    johanna, yum that sounds delicious. Now if I can get enough favas to try them all these different ways, I'll be all set. I have no clue as to how productive they will be.

    Patrica, that is a neat trick. I'll have to try it next time I harvest some.

    ValHalla, I think favas would go with a lemon sauce very well.

    Christina, lol ok two votes for grilling. I'll have to try that one as soon as the weather clears up.

    Sherry, Our fall season isn't nearly long enough. Sometimes I grow peas in the fall, but they don't produce much before the frosts hit.

    Mark, mine were pretty young favas. I'll have to try one with the skin on to see if I like it or not.

    Diana, Our tastes do change as we grow up. Or it could be one of those veggies you will never like. Everyone seems to like arugula. The first and only time I grew it, I tasted it and then ripped it out of the garden so I could plant something I'd eat. I really hate arugula.

    Cathy and Steve, I ate the first batch in a salad. They were good that way, but I think they would be better highlighted on their own.

    Maureen, it is interesting that you dom't remove the inner skin either. For years I've heard about people doing it. I hadn't a clue what they meant as I hadn't seen a fava bean. But they were all US blogs. Maybe in the UK it isn't as common.

  17. Thanks for the very helpful and informative post. I'm trying to find a good cover crop. I wonder how they would do in late fall and even early winter?

  18. Here we sow in late October and they overwinter just fine. As for the skins, we've always eaten them (cooked) just how they come out of their pods and never bother taking the actual bean skin off except if a recipe really requires it. I think most people in the UK eat them like we do... unless it's just our families of course!

  19. my Italian nanna makes "broad beans" italain style, with bit of water, little olive oil, salt, spring onion and bit of crushed tomato in a pot and cook! and she never ever takes the skin off! they are so so so tasty!
    go the skin its fine!