Fava Beans In Season
By Sarah Wood
Like budding trees and chirping birds, fava beans announce the arrival of spring. The beans thrive in cool, damp spring weather, peaking before the summer heat sets in. Often a favorite crop among small growers, fava beans are more readily available at local farmers’ markets than grocery stores.
While they may seem new to most Americans, fava beans reigned as the main crop for much of the Old World and continue to be a prominent ingredient in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. And for good reason: the beans are high in protein, fiber and calcium and low in calories. According to Chinese medicine, the beans improve blood circulation and water metabolism.
The first harvest usually produces smaller pods, providing smaller beans and a more delicate, sweet taste than larger, more mature beans. The bright green beans, slightly bigger than lima beans, require a bit more effort to prepare as they are doubly protected (see instructions, next paragraph).
Preparing favas for cooking: First, the beans need to be shelled from the slightly hairy outer pod and downy inside. Then, the thin outer coat of the bean needs to be removed, except for the smallest of beans. This can be done by parboiling the shelled beans for one to two minutes to loosen the skins, then plunging in ice cold water. Use your thumbnail to peel away the outer layer to reveal the bright green bean inside.
Look for firm, bright green pods, usually five- to seven-inches in length, with minimal discoloration. One pound of pods will yield about a cup of beans. Use the beans as you would peas, adding them to salads, pastas or trying one of the recipes below.
A word of caution: Some people, primarily boys, of Mediterranean descent (along with some Asians and Africans), lack an enzyme to digest fava beans and can experience a toxic reaction to eating the beans or inhaling their pollen. This disorder, called favism, is genetic in nature and very rare.
Favas - 3 Ways!
Fava Salad with Shallots and Mint
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