In Season: Fava Beans

Freshly picked fava beans.

Freshly picked fava beans.

Last fall, we planted fava beans as a cover crop.  I loved seeing their green sprouts all winter long.  In the spring, they seemed to visibly grow each sunny day, and blossomed with black and white flowers.  As it turns out, they’re also delicious and nutritious.  Fava beans are high in protein, iron, and potassium – no wonder why they are a staple food in Egypt, Morocco, and many other countries that border the Mediterranean.

Here are some ideas on how to use fava beans:

Prepping the beans: 

Preparing fava beans for eating is a bit of work.  First, you have to be patient to harvest them.  The pods should be several inches long by the time you pick them.  You want to be able to feel the beans bulging in the pod.  To cook the beans, first remove them from their pod.  Then, cook the beans for a minute in salted, boiling water.  Drain the beans, and immediately plunge them in an ice bath.  After draining the beans again, you’ll use your fingers to gently remove a thin skin that surrounds each bean.  My advice:  listen to good music and get someone to help you.  Also, just a word of warning: it is shocking the small amount of beans that come out of pounds of favas.  You need four pounds of fava beans to yield just two usable cups.  If you’re going to buy favas, keep this in mind.

Fava bean risotto, served with a side of chard.

Fava bean risotto, served with a side of chard.

Drying the beans:

If you’d like to save your own seeds, you are supposed to let the pods dry on the plant until they are black.  When you open the pods, the beans should be completely dry.  If not, it’s recommended to continue drying them in the sun.  This is my first time growing favas, so I haven’t yet dried them, but will be trying this method, both for saving some seeds and some beans for winter eating.

Ideas for cooking the beans: 

I searched through many recipes online, and here are some ideas I found for using beans:

  • Saute prepared favas in olive oil.  Choose from garlic, onions, leeks, fennel, herbs, and of course salt and pepper to flavor them.
  • Many recipes seem to feature favas with creamy sauces and bacon.  I would use vegan substitutes, such as a creamy tofu and/or cashew sauce, with pasta and a tempeh bacon substitute.
  • Make Bigilla, a Mediterranean dip.  I did so following a recipe from Cooking Light.  It’s delicious as a dip or sandwich spread.
  • Make risotto.  Follow my asparagus risotto recipe, but instead of adding asparagus at the end, add 2 cups of prepared favas and 2 cups of arugula.  I used regular thyme to flavor this recipe, and no lemon.  I loved this because favas gave my risotto more protein than usual (and they tasted amazing!).
Bright green bigilla - a great dip.

Bright green bigilla – a great dip.

I hope you continue to enjoy all of the bounty of this season!

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One comment

  1. Erin, this all looks so fresh and good. I am excited to try it all out. I had never heard of Bigilla before, but I make hummas frequently, so the process won’t be far off. Thanks for sharing. Happy spring!

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