Fava Beans with Olive Oil

February 23rd, 2010 / Comments 8

Today I bought fava beans at the market. Legend has it that fava beans saved the Sicilians from famine when all other crops had failed. There is no possibility of famine in Sicily this month but since these beans that have been eaten in the eastern Mediterranean since around 6000 BC and are in season, it seemed appropriate that I try them.

 Fava Beans with Olive Oil

Some people believe that if one carries a fava bean, they will never be without the essentials of life. The name fava comes from the Latin fabe, the word that means bean. Fava beans may also be called broad beans, pigeon beans, horse beans, and Windsor beans.

V Fava beans 01 Fava Beans with Olive OilThe vegetable vendor explained with a mixture of Italian, Sicilian and sign language how to separate the beans from the pods. First, the five or six fava beans must be taken out of the pale green outer pod that looks like an overgrown green bean, and then, before it can be eaten, each bean must be stripped of the thick, tough skin that encloses it.

All of the shelling can be done by the cook, or the shelled beans can be left inside the skin, sautéed in olive oil with or without garlic, salt and pepper, and served – leaving the task of popping the beans from their skins to each diner.

I opted for the easiest preparation of all. I held each pod in the fire of the kitchen cook top until I could see steam puffing out of the pod.  When I had cooked a few pods, I poured olive oil onto a small plate, ground salt and pepper into it and proceeded to pop the beans out of the pod. I put them into the oil and ate them, using my teeth to separate each bean from its wrapper.

I don’t know if it was the fava beans, the fava bean pod or something else that made me feel unsteady on my feet and my lips tingly. It took a walk, half a liter of water and a dish of gelato to set me right.

Although the fava beans had a mild and pleasing flavor, a creamy texture and were a lovely shade of green and I think I’ll give the rest of them away.

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• 8 Responses to “Fava Beans with Olive Oil”

  • Tom says:

    The curious sensation you had after eating the fava beans might have been due to a condition called favism, which is closely related to a deficiency in glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase due to a genetic mutation. Basically, if you have favism, eating fava beans causes hemolysis – the destruction of red blood cells. On the flipside, people with favism are immune to malaria. Might want to look into this.

    • Carol says:

      Thanks. Turns out that I don’t have any reaction to fava beans. I must have had a bit of a reaction to something else. I quite like fava beans grilled and eaten with salt and olive oil.

  • In England favas are called broad beans. They’re very common in early summer, later than in Sicily, of course. When in flower, a deliciously sweet scent wafts from the bean fields. We remove them from their pods, boil them and serve them in a béchamel sauce into which you stir lots of freshly chopped parsley at the last minute. Most of us eat the beans skins and all. Admittedly they’re a bit tough if the beans are old, so try to buy beans that are harvested when young.

  • farid says:

    فول اخضر صحيح

  • wasabi prime says:

    Beautiful photo! I didn’t realize they should come with a label that says “may cause tingly feelings!” I guess they’re just that amazing! ;)

  • Laurie says:

    Carol I love a good giggle in the morning! :)
    I love fava beans and feel so Italian when I get my hands on some. Here in So. Cal we don’t have them readily available, they are usually shipped to us from the north of California. So when I do come across them I am thrilled. My mom taught us to shell them the way the market vendor told you. It takes longer but I think the outcome is well worth it. They make a wonderful addition to a pasta faggiole with sauce too.

    And yes.. you can scan any of these items to me.. I’d still be happy! :)

  • Pam says:

    I love fava beans but, have never cooked with them. They have a great texture so I’m sure this is delicious and will be something to try! Thanks!

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