Sunday, July 24, 2011

Anatomy of a Fava Bean

No, I'm not going to mention liver and Chianti.

Sadly, Hannibal Lecter is the only exposure that many Americans have to the fava bean. Wintergreen Farm is hoping to change that.

Frolicking in the fava bean patch. 
Favas, along with peas, lentils and chickpeas, are one of the few old world legumes that are cultivated on a large scale. They are easy to grow, but can be slightly daunting to prepare. However, favas have been a staple in some cultures since ancient times, so surely you can give them a try.

In milder climates favas are planted in late fall, overwintered, and eaten in the very early spring. In the U.P. we plant them at the same time we plant the peas and generally begin harvesting them just as the pea harvest is winding down.

Which means now.

Favas in the pod.
A lot of pod comes along with the fava bean. The pods are edible, and very tasty. If you want to try the easiest fava bean recipe I have ever seen go with this grilled whole fava bean recipe and you will be happy. You can also saute favas in the pod as you would green beans.

If you'd rather things get a little more complicated, read further.

Each pod contains two to five beans, encased in a thick greenish-white skin.
Once shelled, favas can be eaten as is, either pealed of their papery skins (which have a slightly astringent taste) or not. Many Brits love these as much as Americans love fresh baby shelling peas. They can also be steamed, sauteed, or otherwise cooked with some butter/olive oil, and salt and enjoyed as a side dish. I have also heard of frying them until their skins pop, salting them, and eating them that way with beer, though admittedly I have not tried this.

A freshly peeled fava. It's easy to see why these are also
called broad beans.
After shelling and peeling, two pounds of favas in the shell can yield as little as one cup of beans. But it is one cup of sweet, buttery goodness. Peeling is easiest after a quick blanching or steaming of the beans, but can be done while the beans are still raw as well.

So, if you have gotten this far without eating all of your favas, what should you do with your lovely peeled beans?

Favas and Chard

This recipe highlights the unique flavor of the peeled fava bean. It can be eaten as is, as a side dish, or served over pasta as a light main course.
  • Two pounds fava beans, shelled and peeled
  • 4 - 5 stems Chard, sliced (both leaves and stems) into bite sized pieces
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, thyme or sage
  • several grinds of fresh pepper
  • 1/2 cup water or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or cream
  • Salt to taste
  1. Simmer the fava beans, chopped chard stems, fresh herbs, garlic, and freshly ground pepper in the water or stock until the beans begin to break up, 15 - 20 minutes.
  2. Add the milk or cream and stir until the broken up favas begin to blend with the milk.
  3. Stir in the chopped chard leaves. Continue simmering just until the chard is wilted.
  4. Add salt to taste.

No comments:

Post a Comment