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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Broad (Fava) Beans

Broad Beans:


The broad bean (Vicia faba) is also known as the fava bean, faba bean, field bean, bell bean, English bean, horse bean, Windsor bean, pigeon bean, and the tic bean.  It is a species of flowering plant in the vetch and pea family.  The fruit of the fava plant is a broad leathery pod, green maturing to blackish brown with a densely downy surface.
Broad beans are generally eaten while still young and tender, enabling harvesting to begin as early as middle Spring.  The immature pods are can also be cooked and eaten, and the young leaves of the plant can be eaten either raw or cooked.  Preparing broad beans involves first removing the beans from their pods.  In some cuisines, particularly in France and the U.S. the beans outer skin is removed through blanching.  In most other parts of the world the skin is not removed.  The beans can be fried causing the skin to split open , and then salted or spiced to produce a savory snack.   Broad beans are rich in tyramine, and this should be avoided by those taking MAOI's which are used to treat depression, Parkinson's disease and several other disorders. 


The origin of this legume is obscure, but it has been cultivated in the Middle East for 8000 years before it spread to Western Europe.  Fava beans have been found in the earliest human settlements.  Remains have been found in Egyptian tombs.  Fava beans were cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. 
Broad beans have a long tradition of cultivation in Old World agriculture, being among the most ancient plants in cultivation, and also among the easiest to grow.   The are still often grown as a cover crop to prevent erosion because they can overwinter and because as a legume they fix nitrogen in the soil.

My Story:  

 I remember fava beans from my days in my grandfather's store in Brooklyn, NY.  Fava beans were an item that was displayed on the sidewalk display in the front of the store.  There were bushel baskets that were dummied to about 2 inches from the top and product was displayed in that 2 inch area.  The fava beans were of course in their pods.  Every evening at closing time the display would have to be taken down and put in the store.  I remember one time when I was taking down the fava beans and a customer was out there and said to me, "That's some good eating right there!"  


  • Fava beans are very high in protein
  • A rich source of dietary fiber
  • High in phyto-nutrients such as iso-flavone and plant sterols
  • Contain Levo-dopa of L-dopa, a precursor of neuro-chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, epinephrine, and nor-epinepherone
  • Excellent source of folates
  • Have good amounts of vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin
  • Are a fine source of minerals like iron, copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, and potassium


Fava beans are a winter season crop.  In the market they are available fresh from March until June.


Choose green pods that are not bulging or yellow. Remove the beans from the pod by snapping off a piece of the tip and pulling down the string to open the pod.  Remove the beans.  Place the beans in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds.  Remove the beans to an ice water bath to stop the cooking.  With your fingers squeeze the beans out from the thick skin.  The beans are now recipe ready. 


Fava beans are versatile vegetables. They are good in stews, soups, and stir-fries along with spices, herbs, rice, semolina, peas, carrots, onion, tomato, lamb, poultry, and seafood.  


Favism, which gets its name from the fava bean, is a genetic condition affecting a small population with G-6PD enzyme deficiency which compromises the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.  The condition is triggered in those individuals on eating fava beans or their products in the diet as well as by some drugs and infections.  Prevention mostly includes avoidance of any fava bean products

So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but good:

Garden Linguine with Ricotta

2 TBS coarse salt
1 lb fresh fava beans, shelled
1 lb fresh or frozen peas
1 lb linguine
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped mint leave, extra for garnish
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Fill a large stockpot with water add salt and bring to a boil.  Prepare an ice water bath. Lower fava beans in a sieve into the boiling water and boil for 1 minute.  Remove to the ice water bath.  Transfer to a colander and peel and discard the tough outer skins. set aside.  
In the same blanching water blanch peas until just tender (2 - 3 minutes).  Remove and place in ice water. Drain and set aside. 
Discard blanching water and fill pot with fresh water and 1 TBS salt.  Bring to a boil.  Add pasta and cook to al-dente.
In a large bowl combine ricotta, Parmesan, chopped mint and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Just before pasta is finished cooking remove 1 cup of the hot water and add to the cheese mixture and stir.  Drain pasta and transfer to a serving bowl.  Add olive oil and toss.  Add cheese mixture and reserved fava beans and peas.  Toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with  mint leaves

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