Season for Fava Beans May - April
Fava Beans Described
Hannibal's "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti" may be the extent of your fava bean experience (and we had to do it!), but this bean warrants a second glance. Also called faba beans, broad beans and horse beans, these tan, flat-ish legumes resemble very large lima beans and enjoy popularity in many countries around the world. Perhaps owing to their more laborious preparation and ridiculously short season, we Americans have only begun our fava awakening in the last couple of years. Because, guess what? They're worth it: Their buttery texture and subtly earthy and slightly nutty flavor make for a dip that gives hummus a run for it's money.
How to Buy and Store Fava Beans
Fava beans can be purchased dried, canned or fresh, when in season. And we strongly recommend capitalizing on that short season! In terms of fresh fava beans, choose plump pods (but when you feel for the individual beans, look for flatter-feeling ones) that are shiny and bright green. If the stem end is still moist, the beans were probably harvested recently, which is ideal considering their sugars start to convert to starch as soon as they're picked. Hence, you want to get them young and cook them quick, for the tastiest result.
If you're storing your fava beans, place the unshelled beans in an open bag and keep them in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to a week. Shelled and peeled favas should be used within 2 days, or can be frozen for up to 3 months.
How to Cook Fava Beans
Yup, it's quite a process. But for those of us who see cooking (and eating) as meditation, fava's are a dream bean. They require double peeling. Begin by shelling them, then blanching the shelled beans in salted water for a few minutes, after which you can shock them in cold water. Now you can remove the second skin, a tough grey/brown coating that is unpalatable. Simply peel it right off. Then, the possibilities are limitless. Yield varies depending on the maturity of the pods, but 4 pounds of beans generally yields 2 cups of shelled, peeled favas.
Some ways in which fava beans might be prepared are mashed and pureed and spread on crackers, or used in risottos, various soups and stews, and accompanied by other spring vegetables, such as artichokes. Or give our Arugula & Fava Bean Bruschetta Recipe a go!
Health Benefits of Fava Beans
The health benefits alone make fava worth the process. While especially high in fiber and iron, favas also contain good levels of phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A and thiamin. And they have high concentrations of an amino acid known as L-dopa (dopamine), which works as a neurotransmitter in the brain. All-in-all, favas will keep your digestive system functioning well, promote healthy bones and teeth, while helping maintain bone, skin, vision and heart health
A little warning, though: fava beans are toxic to some individuals with favism, caused by an inherited blood enzyme deficiency, mostly of Mediterranean descent. Be cautious when trying fava beans for the first time.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Fava Beans
We go for favas when they're in season, mostly because they taste best when bought fresh. But also, fava beans from a can may contain the harmful toxin Bisphenol A (BPA) - used in canning - so we steer clear of them. Choosing organic fava beans when possible is your way of saying you support your own health and that of the planet, using your fork to vote for sustainable practices that build vibrant ecosystems and protect our air and water.
Looking for a quick breakfast? Try these delicious whole rolled oats that cook up in just a few minutes. Or make this recipe in large batches on the weekend so you have for the week.