Often called broad beans because of their large, flat shape,
fava beans have a robust, meaty flavour. The name originates from
the word "favus" which is the Latin for broad bean. Though
classified as a legume, they are not really beans at all, but
members of the pea family.
Fava beans have been on the menu for 9,000 years, first
appearing during Neolithic times in the Middle East. They were
widely cultivated in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. In Egypt, they
were a staple food of the lower classes. However, the upper classes
considered them unworthy and unlike lentils they have not been
found in the tombs or depicted on frescoes.
Unfortunately, favas are underused. This bean offers robust
flavour and is highly nutritious; full of phosphorous, vitamin A
and C and a good source of dietary protein.
Buying and Storing
Fava beans are sold fresh, dried, frozen and canned. The pods of
fresh favas should be pale green and feel soft and tender (avoid
damaged and wilted pods). They should be stored in the refrigerator
and are best used within a few days of purchase.
Dried fava beans should be shiny and smooth and will keep for
about a year when stored in an airtight container.
Fresh fava beans appear in markets in late May to early June.
Frozen and dried beans are available year-round.
The young delicate pods of fresh favas can be cooked and eaten
along with the beans inside. However, more mature beans should be
shelled before cooking (a black line on the bean is a sign of age
Once out of the pod, cook beans until tender in boiling, salted
water. When cool, remove the outer husk by making a small cut with
your thumbnail, then squeeze the bean out using your thumb and fore
If using dried fava beans, cover them with a few inches of
water. Let them stand overnight or use the quick soak method: bring
to a rapid boil for 2 minutes, turn off heat, and let soak at least
for an hour; preferably three or four. When you're ready to cook
the beans, drain the water and re-cover with a few inches of fresh
water, then simmer until tender (up to two hours).
A simple way to prepare favas is to toss them with a little
olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic and fresh sage. Add salt and
pepper to taste. For the best flavour, let stand about an hour to
combine the flavours. Try adding them to pasta, rice dishes and
Try it today:
Bissara (Fava Bean Dip)
Sicilian-Style Fava Bean Soup
Grilled Panini with Fava Been Puree,
Prosciutto, Asparagus and Parmesan