Jun 30 2011

Fresh from the Market: Fava Beans

I’ve eaten favas before this summer, but I’d never cooked with them-- meaning that I’d never had the pleasure of uncovering the vibrant green bean pod, layer by layer.  Prepping favas is the cook’s equivalent to a 10 minute yoga class, without the stretching.  The repetitive preparation leaves me with no choice but to clear my brain as I pluck the beans out of their pods.  And after they’ve blanched for a few minutes, I’m able to clear my brain again, because the green beans need to be removed from their cases.

We’ve now tried favas from three different farms.  The best, by far, are from Norwich Meadows.  Each bean pod contained at least 4 large beans.  The biggest pod measured 9 inches! And the flavor?  See below!


I have a wonderful British cookbook with pages upon pages of recipes dedicated to broad beans.  A quick inspection of an accompanying picture revealed broad beans to be the same thing as our favas!  Favas can also be referred to as field beans or bell beans.

A broad legume, fava beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants.  According to NPR, before Europeans discovered America, they were the only beans they ate.

If you’re buying fava beans with a specific recipe in mind, remember to buy more than you think you need.  2 pounds of fava pods = approximately 1.5 cups of beans.  Read the recipe carefully to see if the authors is referring to the pods or beans in the measurement!

Flavor Profile:

Buttery, bright, nutty, and rich!

In the Kitchen:

Be sure to pick out pods that are smooth.  It’s okay for them to look a little weathered, beaten up, or less than attractive.  The inside bean is protected both by the pod and the case.  You should still examine the pods for rot and avoid any that have wrinkles.  It probably won’t be possible to open up a pod before buying it--after all, what are you going to do: put it back if it doesn’t work?  When you get home, you’ll want your beans to look like firm white clouds (or pillows).

Fava beans can be stored (unshelled) for up to 3 days in a refrigerator.

Favas are amazing when you prepare them simply:  steaming or pureeing is my preferred method.

Growing Season:

In the Northeast, favas are available from late May until early July.

Favas are sowed when the spring soil defrosts, before the weather becomes too warm.  After sowing, the beans take around 80 days to reach harvest.

Fava beans can also be grown as an overwinter cover crop to prevent erosion.

Interesting Links:

A vibrant fava bean puree reminiscent of guacamole.  Maybe I’ll serve this for the 4th of July!

If you really love fava beans, here’s a tote bag for you!

Up next: A delicious fava bean pasta--that I already took pictures of and accidentally deleted.  I guess I need to make it again!

Resources:  NPR, The Produce Bible, Wikipedia, Harvest Wizard