Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fava beans

Fava belongs in any Green Revolutions: the plants are high-yield, easy-going, and nitrogen-fixing. In mild California, they're favorite job is as a winter ground-cover between higher-value plantings. Fava is high in protein and fiber, and various other chemicals (watch for "favism", in which the vicine, isouramil, and convicine in the beans and pollen induce hemolytic anemia in some populations of African origin, possibly as an evolved response to malaria).

Young beans can be eaten raw, but I prefer them cooked, as a mild bitterness starts to creep into the growing beans early. In a salad, fava should be blanched; my favorite way to eat fava is sauteed. Today I cooked mine in olive oil, with fennel bulb and fresh oregano.

Since it's early in the season, the fava I purchased at Farmers' Market this morning had few beans per pod. I shelled more than a pound of beans — about half an hour of relaxing — for one plate of food. Still, this low-brow bean is worth it.

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