As you walk down the rows at the Pasco’s Farmers Market, you’ll see the familiar bundles of fresh asparagus, plump strawberries, juicy cherries and then you’ll stop and stare. You might even touch them, wondering what the heck is this gigantic bean? Is it a freak of nature? Why and how would you eat a bean this large? It’s like a child’s worst nightmare: a big, green bean! When you ask what it is with a crinkled nose, you get a friendly smile from the vendor as she replies, “Fava Bean!” Oh. A fava bean. What the heck is that?!
Fava beans are pretty popular across the pond, also known at broad beans, English beans and pigeon beans. Asia has been using them for thousands of years. Well, almost every country has been using them in their diets for thousands of years. It has even been said that this is the type of bean Jack traded that cow for and created all those problems with a beanstalk that lead to a giant. It’s also a bean that you may not find in your local grocery store, simply because they are labor intensive and not popular here in America. But maybe that’s because we just haven’t quite figured out how to make them good yet (The lady at the farmer’s market told me to add some cheese! Now that’s how you make every veggie taste good in my book, too.).
As for nutrition, the fava bean is very high in fiber. That’s all that needs to be said, because who doesn’t need more fiber in their diet?! But in case you were wondering, they are also a good source of iron and low in sodium.
When it comes to preparing a fava bean, be ready for some work. Get an apron on, pour yourself some tea and sit on the front porch and get ready to shell some beans. These giant beans need to be shelled, cooked and then peeled. They can be used as a type of spread on crackers if mashed and also great in soups. I was also told they are great sautéed in some butter or on a summer salad. Below is one recipe I found that sounds pretty good and perfect for summer barbeques. Enjoy!
Grilled Fava Beans
1 pound of fresh fava beans, still in their pods
a couple glugs of olive oil
a few pinches of salt
optional: crushed red pepper flakes, lemon zest, and or chopped fresh herbs.
In a large bowl toss the fava bean pods with olive oil and salt. Arrange them in a single layer on a grill over medium-high heat. If you're using a grill pan, you may need to cook them in batches. If I'm using an outdoor grill I don't bother covering the favas, but when I use a grill pan, I typically cover the pan with a flat baking sheet to keep more of the heat in the pan and circulating. Grill until blistered on one side - 4 to 5 minutes, then flip and grill for a few minutes more on the other side. If you aren't sure when to pull them off, take a pod off the grill, open and taste one of the beans. You want the fava beans to be smooth and creamy when you pop them out of their skins - not undercooked. But keep in mind that they'll keep steaming in their pods for a few minutes after they come off the grill, unless you eat them as soon as you can handle the pods without singing your fingers - which is what I encourage you to do :) Season the grilled favas with a bit more salt (if needed) and any herbs or lemon zest if you like. To eat: tear open the puffy green pods, take a fava bean, pinch the skin and slide the bright green fava from its slipper. Eat them one at a time and be sure to lick your fingers.
Serves 2 - 4
You can also find more recipes using these beans on the NPR website.