Fava beans. For some of us, the first thing that comes to mind when we hear those words is that infamous scene from Silence of the Lambs (*shudder*). But these legumes, also known as broad beans, pair well with more than just a nice Chianti. A longtime staple of Mediterranean cuisine, these beautiful beans are a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet. Read on for all of the details!
Find the fresh pods at farmers’ markets and local grocers (especially health-food-type shops like Whole Foods) during their growing season. Their size makes them hard to miss — they’re about eight inches long and one inch wide.
Year-round, bags of the dried, shelled beans are also available; Bob’s Red Mill is a terrific source, available at a host of stores and online. Once cooked, their buttery texture and nutty flavor makes them a natural fit for a hummus-like dip, as well as a welcome addition to salads. If you don’t feel like cooking them up from scratch, you can cut to the chase and go with canned. Just be sure to remove the sometimes unpleasant-tasting skins before use.
Look for fresh fava beans in early spring, about the same time asparagus hits shelves. In cooler climates, they’ll show up a bit later, but expect to see them available well into summer. To extend the harvest a bit longer, there are several preservation methods available: Blanching then freezing or drying the beans in an oven are two great choices.
Fava beans are low in fat and sodium, and a good source of fiber and protein. Additionally, they provide a healthy dose of vitamins A and C, along with potassium and iron. As an added bonus, they contain a chemical that the body uses to produce dopamine, making them a great choice for a mood-boosting menu.
The only downside to these beans is their reputation for being a bit labor intensive to prepare. These are a few of our favorite recipes to get you started. Trust that all of your work will pay off BIG time.
1. Spring Greens Salad: It doesn’t get much more Spring-y than this colorful combo of greens, fava beans, potatoes and much more. The addition of spicy chorizo and a poached egg makes it a perfect choice for brunch. (via Wild Greens and Sardines)
2. Garlicky Roasted Fava Beans: It doesn’t take much time to whip up a pile of these tasty roasted (or grilled) favas. The pods are too tough to eat, but it’s a piece of cake to pop out the beans; eat them just like edamame. (via Chocolate and Marrow)
3. Ricotta Gnocchi With Leeks and Fava Beans: Delicate ricotta gnocchi are a delicious accompaniment for a fabulous selection of springtime produce. The flavors marry oh-so well together in every single bite. (via Bon Appétit)
4. Parmesan-Baked Fava Bean Chips: If you already love crispy, roasted chickpeas, these fava bean chips are for you. Even better: They employ dried beans, so it’s easy to whip up a batch no matter the season. (via Amuse Your Bouche)
Do you look forward to the arrival of fava beans at the market? Share your favorite ways to use them below!