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, saut̩ed in olive oil with or without garlic, salt and pepper, and served Рleaving 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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