Another sure sign of Spring: the beautiful fava bean appears. Long, non-descript pods piled high at the market or at your local specialty store. Favas are loaded with great nutritional value: they are a source of protein, folate, and many essential vitamins including B. Their flavor is nutty, ever so slightly bitter and oh so yummy. They can be eaten whole, mashed or pureed. In my research of favas I came to find out that this wonderful healthy ingredient dates back to the Bronze age, said to have been originally cultivated in the Mediterranean. (wow!)
When I picked them up at the market I wasn't sure exactly what I would be doing with them. Sometimes, well actually many times, I pick things up that look interesting. On my way home I usually start percolating ideas in my mind.
After placing the favas in my basket I also spotted some really pretty purple carrots too. Here is an interesting factoid: before the 17th century carrots were predominantly purple, in addition to also being yellow and white. In the late 16th century Dutch growers crossed several varieties and cultivated the orange color we see today.
First things first: you need to shell the beans. The pods are pretty easy to open and the beans easy to slide out. Once you shell the beans you need to blanch them, not only to cook them but to also help get the actual bean out of it's thick casing. Since my beans were on the small side I blanched them in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes. After letting them cool a bit they popped right out.
My husband Larry came home from work just as I was finishing up with that last step. When I showed him what I was doing he responded, "Wow, seems like a lot of work." He's probably right. However, most things that are special take a little extra work, right? The way I see it, fresh favas only come around once a year, so go ahead and take the time - it will be worth it!
To read more about favas and see my easy recipe using them click here.