Fava beans (or broad beans, as they are known in England and some other places) are one of the oldest cultivated crops and eaten almost everywhere in the world, except, curiously, they are not well known in the US. They are worth getting to know, however, with a delightful flavour and high nutritional value. Descriptions of their flavour mostly make me laugh, so I won’t try. You’ll simply have to try them to find out. I can say something more about their nutritional value: they’re high in fiber, protein, folate, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium. They’re also rich in L-dopa, which our bodies convert to the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Unfortunately, fava beans are a very short-lived pleasure in Kentucky, thanks to our continental climate. They take a while to get going but have a habit of dropping their flowers when it’s hot. As a result, we usually just have a short window in late May or early June when they can be harvested.
Fava beans come in big, cushy pods that have large, flat beans in them. The pods are sometimes eaten, especially if on the young side, but usually they are opened and the beans removed. Usually the clear skin of the individual beans is also removed before eating, though that’s not always necessary. The younger and smaller the beans, the less likely it is to be necessary. Removing the clear skin is also less important for recipes where the beans are pureed with an electric blender. On the other hand, if you’re going to be eating the beans whole, e.g., in pasta, and they are quite mature, then you want to remove the clear skin since it will be rather leathery.
If you’re looking for recipes, check British sources, since broad beans are very popular there. Riverford Organic Farmers, for example, has many recipes using broad beans on its website.
SEASON: late May/early June.