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Updated: 06/18/2014 12:19:14AM

Fava, an unfamiliar bean

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ARCADIAN PHOTO BY AL SMOKE

Fresh fava beans are typically only available for a few weeks in late spring. When buying favas, select plump green pods. Split open the oversize pods. Inside the velvety lining are several large seeds. The seeds are enveloped in an outer covering. In most parts of the world, the outer covering is eaten, but French and American recipes call for removing the seed cover. Shelled beans are on right, split seed cover at bottom center.

By Karen Smoke

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When we were visiting family in New Jersey in early June we went to a farmers market and saw huge piles of what looked like colossal bright green pea pods. Fava beans, Vicia faba, are a popular bean in many areas of the world, but they are just enjoying a resurgence in the United States. They were a common springtime crop in colonial America, but later fell out of esteem in this country. We weren’t surprised to find them in New Jersey, which has a diverse ethnic population, but we were surprised to see them in Arcadia at K & J Produce. Instead of shying away from this unfamiliar vegetable, we bought some to try.

They’re also known as broad bean, English bean, Winsor bean, horse bean, tick bean, field bean and pigeon bean. Favas are a versatile bean. They may be eaten as a green bean when very young, or as a shell bean when the pods are completely filled out, or they may be allowed to fully mature and harvested as a dry bean. But Fava aficionados agree the fresh shell beans are the best.

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