Monday, August 22, 2011

Fava Beans and Fava Beans with Garlic

Broad bean, Field bean, Horse bean, Fava bean... the botanical name being Vicia (VIK-ee-uh) faba (FAH-va).

Are you aware that Favas are ancient, one of the oldest cultivated plants, said to have survived 5000 years? A fact sheet from Purdue University claims it is one of the most important winter crops for human consumption in the Middle East, and we are aware of it being a favorite among Italian cuisine.

Last year while researching which heirloom beans we would plant in this year's garden, I was especially drawn to this one of which we were aware, but had not planted before. The character of the dried bean itself was so compelling.

A cooler weather plant, it likes well drained soil and actually adds nitrogen back into it. It is one that is easy to grow, and whose beautiful blossoms are edible.

Beans begin to form at the bottom of the plant first, thus those will be the first to harvest. Six (6) plants yielded 3 and one-half pounds of shelled beans for us. String the bean, shuck it, and remove anywhere from 3 to 5 (and sometimes 6... but who's counting) in each pod. And once inside, the plump 5-10 inch long pods have a most unusual cushioned lining.

The waxy outer coating needs to be removed. Blanch them in boiling (slightly salted) water for just 30 seconds; remove, drain, rinse with cold water; then plunge into an ice bath in order to stop the cooking process. Drain again.

Gently pinch the bean opposite of where it was attached to the pod, and the coating slips off to find a seductively luminescent and gorgeous shade of green.

How did we prepare them? a simple rendering.

Fava Beans with Garlic from Diana's kitchen

2 cups shelled fava beans
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, chopped
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat; add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds (careful not to burn). Add the Fava beans, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and saute on low for just a few minutes. They are young and tender to begin with, so very little cooking is required. Sprinkle with any additional salt or fresh pepper to taste... voila. Buttery and nutty flavor, but with an ever so slight bitterness, you can eat them warm or cold, steamed or smashed...

... serve them as a side with a simple meal, burger with blue cheese, caramelized onions, and sauteed mushrooms.

Note: Extra steps are required after harvesting these beautiful beans. Was it worth it? Yes, in that they are gorgeous, and we enjoyed them. Will we plant them again next year? Not entirely sure, as the other heirloom beans that we planted have yet to be judged. Nonetheless, we are saving seeds just in case.