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Fava Beans - A How To?

Nothing says Spring to me like fava beans. Inspired by some of the dishes I've been having at my favorite restaurants, namely a fava bean, radish and red pepper pappardelle at Komi and the fava bean crostini at 2 Amys, did a little experimenting over the weekend with fava beans. I figured some of you might benefit from what I learned.

Just so you're aware of how clueless I actually was...for the longest time, I thought fava beans were the same thing as lima beans. I know. Silly me. Those chalky excuses for vegetables my mother force fed me growing up are nothing like fava beans -- at least as far as taste goes.

Once I finally figured out what they look like, I was able to identify them in the grocery store. Both the Balducci's and the Whole Foods by me have them, but I've found that the quality of the ones at Balducci's were a bit better - the beans were fuller and more mature where the beans from the
Whole Foods seemed like they were picked a bit early. I was more successful at picking out better beans when I felt the shell for fullness -- that seemed to mean that the beans inside were more mature.

Also when shopping, keep in mind that 3 lbs of beans in their shells will yield about a cup to a cup-and-a-half of shelled and de-skinned fava beans, so pack that bag at the grocery store full, because you're going to need a lot of pods. The beans ran about $2.50 a pound.

These were the fava beans that I bought at Balducci's after I shelled and cooked them for 4 minutes in boiling water.
After you've shelled them, you need to peel the tough skins off the fava beans. It took me a little while to figure out where the skin ended and the bean began. The skin is actually a couple layers -- I peeled the outside skin off a couple of beans before I figured out that I was performing a task much more difficult than it needed to be. I was being way to careful.

You can use a knife or your fingers, but all you have to do is slice into the skin and then it's easy to squeeze out the bean inside.
Fava_bean_shelling2 Fava_bean_shelling1_1
Amy and I spent about an hour or so peeling the beans. We had a good time with it, had some wine and cheese, and watched a few cooking shows looking for recipes to use them in. After all that, here's the finished product.
I know, not much huh?

But, that ended up being enough for about 35 raviolis that Amy and I made using this recipe (I know, I'm ambitious aren't I?), which said that "peeling the beans before cooking them prevents gases from being trapped between the bean and the skin that could cause discoloring." I didn't notice any difference in the color between when I peeled off the skins before or after I cooked them. Maybe I was just lucky.



I love fava beans! They are a huge pain in the arse to prepare though. At the farmer's market I go to, they have them for $1.50 a pound. Do you have a market near you?

Fava beans are also good on crostini, mashed with some lemon, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan. Or tossed with hot pasta, fresh ricotta, herbs and lemon. I think I know what I'm going to have for dinner.


I enjoy fava beans when someone else makes them for me, but I'm all for experimenting. How did you and Amy enjoy that recipe?


well, it was ok. The ravioli were great! And the filling with the mascarpone cheese and fava beans was just what I was looking for in a fava bean dish. However, the curry emulsion was...not great. It fell kind of flat and was bland. Next time, I think I'll just make normal ravioli with an olive oil, butter and parmesan cheese sauce.

jim collins

And will you be having a nice Chianti with those Jason?


I was wondering how long it would take for someone to say that. :)

Anna Blume

Next time, blanch beans you take out of pods for two minutes. They pop out of their skins in a snap. Young fava beans are actually superior in taste to older, mature ones which can get mealy and bitter if long in the tooth. 2 1/4 lbs. of WF's beans yielded about 1 1/4 cups of beans, perfect for vignarola (see epicurious or traditional vegetarian version in recent post on eGullet, Italian forum, Cooking & Cuisine of Lazio).


Thanks for the tip about the older beans Anna.


Personally, I like to just eat them raw as a snack. I do the same thing with fresh peas. You might dip them in a teeny bit of coarse salt, too, but they're a great, healthy, springtime snack.


Don't eat Fava beans raw. According to The Wikipedia: "They contain vicine and convicine, which can induce hemolytic anemia in patients with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD). This condition, which is quite common in certain ethnic groups, is called "favism"." Not related to the school of painting I reckon. Cooking renders the beans safe. Pecorino renders them yummy.


I'd been looking all over for fava beans (trying to make the crostini). Yesterday we stumbled upon this Mediterranean store next to Joe's Noodle House on Rockville Pike. They had fresh(in the pod), whole beans(with skin) and finally the peeled beans. The whole and peeled beans were frozen. I just picked up a pack of the peeled beans. Gonna try your recipe soon.

PS This store also had a ton of good looking baklava. Havn't tried any yet though.


if you're in soCal,.they're $0.46/pound in Super Irvine on 5 and culver.


Younger beans are better, no need to peel the skin. Just sauté them lightly in butter, Delicious!


We planted a lot of these fava bean seeds and have ended up with a large surplus. We were wondering when they are best for eating. I was also wondering whether to freeze the beans, and how this is done or dry them -- and again, can someone give me advice on how to do this.

We had them for the first time today and enjoyed them steamed, but what should I do with the rest of the beans on the plants???


We just grew favas for the first time/mainly for their dopamine content for a parkinson's disease patient. The beans have grown well. We have just harvested our first pods / boiled them about 3 1/2 minutes and ate them whole..they were young beans and were very good. We are hoping they will improve the quality of life for my patient/ also for my brother who also has the disease.

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