Spring is just the start of fava bean season. You’ll find those long, shiny green pods (mostly in farmers' markets) starting in early spring and on through summer and early fall. Fava beans (sometimes called "broad beans") take a little more effort to prepare than other fresh produce, but they're an excellent source of lean protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Combine that with a delightfully nutty flavor, and favas might just become your favs.
What are Fava Beans?
An ancient member of the pea family, favas have been around for over 5000 years. According to The Visual Food Encyclopedia, they were actually used by the Greeks as ballots in voting.
Selecting and Storing Fava Beans
Choose firm pods that are bumpy along the entire length; the smaller the bumps, the younger the beans. Store unprepared fava beans in sealed plastic in your refrigerator for up to 5-7 days.
How to Prepare Fava Beans
Nowadays, fava beans have a reputation for being notoriously time consuming to prepare. I’ve spoken to farmers who tell me they eat them only in restaurants. In fact, they do require more work than just steaming green beans. And here’s why: The beans need to be removed from the cushiony, cotton-like lining of the pod which, in most cases, is thrown away. So a big pile of bean pods yields a small pile of beans.
Although the skin on the beans is edible, many cooks prefer to blanch them and squeeze the beans out of the skin. Skins of older, larger beans can be slightly bitter. But I think it’s usually an aesthetic decision--skinned beans are just plain gorgeous. Bright, vibrant green beans go so well in risotto, summer salads, or just on their own with a drizzle of lemon vinaigrette, a bit of lemon zest, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Other excellent flavor pairings are Fontina cheese, cream, and mint.
You’ll probably need to buy twice as many as you think you need. A half pound of beans in the pod will yield just about a half cup of beans.
How to Blanch Fava Beans
First place the shelled beans in a pot of boiling water. Depending on their size, they need only 3 to 5 minutes in the water to blanch them. Remove the beans with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water.
Pinch the round end of the bean and squeeze the bean out of the skin.
Here’s an easy 4-ingredient salad --just combine sliced radishes, sliced skinny asparagus, fava beans, and the lemon vinaigrette of your choice.
Try fava beans in these delicious recipes: