Fava beans, which grow best in hot, dry climates, are a staple ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. And while they can be found year-round in their dried form, there’s only a short window of opportunity to enjoy fresh fava beans. In season from late March through most of the summer (with its peak in July), these green, delicately-flavored beans are loaded with protein, fiber, and folate and are also a good source of thiamine and zinc.
If you’re lucky enough to find fresh favas (scope out your local market or look in ethnic or specialty markets), look for plump, crisp-looking pods and avoid wilted specimens. Fresh favas will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Alternatively, you can look for frozen shelled young fava beans in the freezer section of your supermarket.
To prep fresh fava beans, first run your thumb along the pod seam to remove the individual beans from their pods. Blanch the beans by boiling them for 30 seconds to a minute, then plunging them into ice-cold water. Drain and cool the beans, then peel off the outer skin of each bean by pinching the skin between your fingers. Two pounds of unshelled beans will yield about one cup of shelled favas. Use this spring delicacy to add vivid color and a subtle, nutty flavor to appetizers, salads, sides, risottos, and pasta dishes. For inspiration, check out these seasonal dishes featuring fresh fava beans; they’re all great ways to welcome spring.
In Italian, this dish is called Agenello Scottadito con Fave alla Romana, which translates to “Burn your finger” lamb chops with fava beans, Roman-style. This is traditionally eaten in the spring, from May 1st (a national holiday) through June. We love to enjoy it when favas are young and fresh enough to eat raw or just barely cooked with olive oil and lemon juice.
If fava beans are in the market, you know it’s spring, or spring somewhere nearby. Their giant green pods look like something strange and juicy, perhaps from another planet. In fact, they are the original Mediterranean bean.
An easy and tasty way to take advantage of spring asparagus and fava beans.
Fava Bean Crostini
Fava Beans and Pancetta