You've heard of the black bean, the pinto bean, the kidney bean and the lima bean - but what about the fava bean? This type of legume is a little less well-known than its counterparts. Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are a staple in Asia, the Middle East, South America, North Africa and Europe. Luckily, the United States is beginning to discover their buttery texture and nutty taste just in time for spring.
The fava bean is actually part of the pea family and is one of the oldest plants still being cultivated. These beans were eaten in Ancient Greece and Rome, and were the only variety that the Europeans ate before they discovered America and all its legumes. Fava beans can be served boiled, mashed, spread on crostinis or added to spring stews and soups. Regardless of how you choose to prepare them, they are filled with lots of nutrients. They're high in fiber and iron and low in sodium and fat. Fava beans are also packed with protein and have no cholesterol.
Fava beans can be used in a variety of dishes and eaten either raw, lightly blanched, shelled, unshelled or sometimes even in the pod! In Egypt and several Arab countries, these beans are traditionally pureed or mashed and served with parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, onions and cumin in a breakfast dish known as ful medames. In other countries like Peru, Colombia and Mexico, however, they are prepared a bit differently. The beans are either fried or dried then slated to create a crunchy and delicious snack.
While these beans are both delicious and nutritious, the process of getting them ready for consumption is actually pretty labor-intensive, as they have to be peeled twice. The beans must first be removed from their waxy coatings, but before you begin the process and are searching for the beans at the store, you want to look for green pods. The ones that appear to be bulging out of their shells are older and might have a more bitter taste than the fresher beans. Here's how to peel and enjoy your fava beans:
Try out this tasty, fresh salad recipe just in time for spring:
Quinoa Fava Bean Spring Salad
1 cup quinoa
1 pound fava beans
1 pound peas in the pod
1 bunch asparagus cut into 1-inch pieces
4 green onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup chopped spring herbs of your choice
freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add quinoa and reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook about 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes.
2. Shell fava beans and peas, set aside.
3. Combine oil and lemon juice in large bowl. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add cooled quinoa to the dressing and toss to combine. Throw in vegetables and stir, contribute remaining ingredients and toss to combine.