The farmers markets in our area were a little slow in getting started this year, but they are now in full swing and seem to keep growing each week.
There is something I just love so much about local farmers bringing the results of their hard work, passion and expertise, putting them on display for us to drool over admire and take home to enjoy. Each week I am happy to see I am not the only one!
This stand wins “Best Display” in my book. Look at all the cute little baskets and containers and the beautiful items in them!
We met Erik downtown at his office yesterday and walked the two blocks to the market in search of fresh, local, organic berries. We came home with two flats of some of the sweetest, juiciest berries we’ve ever had. The ones in the store don’t hold a candle to these, that is fo sho!
But one cannot live on berries alone! (Or can they? I wouldn’t mind trying.)
The rest of our haul included Rainier cherries, fava beans, kale and sugar snap peas. I was like a kid in a candy store! The raspberries were nearly half gone by the time we got home, and a full pound of cherries somehow turned into one little pint!
But you see those things on the left that look like green beans on steroids? Those are fava beans.
I first tried them last year when we received them in our CSA share (from Zestful Gardens, pictured above!), and I really liked them made into a hummus dip, so when I saw them yesterday knew I would be making them for dinner.
Before we get to that though, I want to talk about these interesting legumes a bit because judging from the number of times the person selling them was asked what they were, just while I was standing in line, I don’t think most people are familiar with them.
Fava beans, also known as broad beans, field beans, or horse beans, have been around for centuries, are among the oldest cultivated plants and have been diet staples in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Europeans brought them to America in exchange for some of our beans, but they never really caught on here.
After preparing them, I can understand why.
As if packaged for shipping, the beans are nestled inside the fuzzy, blanket-like pods. They must be shucked, one pod, one bean at a time. Something you might want to enlist help for and sit out on the front porch, drink iced tea and shuck away on a lazy afternoon. (A nice idea, anyway…I honestly think I was born in the wrong era.)
I only bought a pound, so with my best kitchen helper, we were done in no time.
But, just when you thought you were done, there is yet another step!
The beans have an outer waxy skin that must be removed still! This is done easiest by parboiling them for 2 minutes and rinsing with cold water. Then just pinch them and squeeze out the inner bean.
(I now have a new favorite color: Fava bean green.)
This is a lot of time and effort to spend on a bean, no?
But you know me, I think it is totally worth it. Especially after tasting them!
Before we get to that though, are they nutritionally worth all of the effort?
Fava beans are high in dopamine, an amino acid that plays a role in the brain in such activities as memory, energy and sex drive. They are low in calories and in fat, with no cholesterol. They’re also high in protein, iron, and fiber, and are good sources of vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium.
So they’re totally good for you, but how do they taste?
They have a more buttery texture compared to other beans and a lovely, nutty flavor. They sort of remind me of a creamy edamame.
For last night’s dish, I wanted something simple that the kids might also like, to re- introduce them to these beautiful beans.
Garlicky Fava Beans with Spaghetti
- 1 lb fava beans, shelled
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 T extra virgin olive oil (I used garlic olive oil)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 pkg. whole-grain spaghetti, cooked according to pkg. directions
Bring a small pot 3/4 full of water to a boil. Add the fava beans and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water to stop cooking. To remove the skins, pinch each bean on the the side opposite where it was attached to the pod; the bean should slip easily from the skin. Set the beans aside. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and lightly golden. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds; don’t let it brown. Add the fava beans and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until the beans are tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add cooked spaghetti and toss to mix well. Serve.
Such a simple dish, but yet so satisfying. Everyone enjoyed this, and even without the pasta, which is how I ate it, it was awesome. I will be keeping my eyes out for fava beans again the next time we visit the farmers market–there are a few other recipes I have in mind to try.
What do you think? Have you ever tried fava beans? How were they prepared? If you’ve never had them, are you interested in trying them?
Inquiring minds want to know.