“I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antæus. But why should I raise them? Only Heaven knows.” Henry David Thoreau
Hearty Fava beans. Grown for over 6,000 years, its peasant roots are now emerging as a new food trend. Each spring, Italians patiently wait for the grass-green pods to become elongated, filled with thumbnail sized beans. In Puglia last April, I noticed the variety of ways favas were incorporated into so many local dishes, especially when they are in season, which is right now.
Robust favas grown from seeds I purchased in Tuscany. They are producing heavily at the moment and are my garden showstopper. Anyone have an extra pair of hands to help shuck the pods?
In Italy, favas dot pastas, soak up spicy olive oil for a salad, are smashed on top of crostini and pureed for a coulis to cuddle fish or seafood. Their bright green brilliance is appetizing and their taste is even better.
Freshly unzipped and shucked favas. Next they are blanched for 30 seconds, then plunged into an ice bath. The work begins now. I remove the tough outer skin and discard it, revealing the gorgeous green tender morsel inside. 1 pound of whole fava beans equals about 1 cup of shelled beans.
The beans have a soft sweetness that almost melts in your mouth. I had heard of favas before but not attempted to prepare them because of the hype about how time-consuming they were. I assure you, they are well worth the sacrifice of time. You will be rewarded with a new taste, a gorgeous color addition to your recipes and a powerhouse of protein-rich nutrition.
A simple flavorful salad of sliced fresh fennel, favas, minced dill and lemon olive oil or lemon vinaigrette. Decorated with the nasturtiums that are taking over my garden! Refreshing!
A bed of my garden greens, favas tossed with mint and a hint of olive oil, a few mozzarella balls then drizzled with fig balsamic vinegar. Bellissimo!
There are so many ways to incorporate these green beauties into your life, I just couldn’t make all the recipes I dreamed up! Some more of my ideas are: Garlic-infused fava purée under seafood kabobs, pasta with favas and artichokes, olive oil dressed favas and shaved pecorino cheese (an Italian favorite), favas smashed with a bit of olive oil (basil infused is delicious) and spread on crostini.
This just in: While shopping at Trader Joe’s last weekend, the demo featured pasta salad with fava beans, imported from Italy and in the frozen section! Fresh is always best so check your local farmer’s market first.
I’d love to hear from you fava lovers. How do you use them in your favorite dishes?
Contact me for tips on growing favas from seed. They require a mild climate because they are planted in October/November and harvested in late March to April. My story “Garden RX” has photos of the established plants and their height.
For more information on favas, check out this fabulous website:http://www.delallo.com/articles/fava-beans-green-protein
Ciao for now,