I consider fresh green fava beans a treat. They are seasonal and sometimes very hard to get. They are a lesser known bean variety even though they have been around for thousands of years.
This is another recipe passed down to me from my grandmother. It is simple and easy but has bold flavors. Serve with rice for a complete meal rich with vegetable protein and fiber.
What are fava beans?
Fava beans are one of the most ancient cultivated plants, and they even look ancient. To me, they are the dinosaur of the legume family; but they avoided extinction and spread to enchant cultures around the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, and North Africa areas.
Fava beans, also known as broad beans or “ful” are one of the most beloved vegetables and ingredients in the Mediterranean region; a mainstay in regional street food to delicious hearty meals. Young green bean pods are used in salads and stews, and from the dry beans Egyptian falafel has been made famous. Another famous dish is “ful mudammas” known in the Middle East as a staple and substantial breakfast food.
Cultural significance of fava beans.
Fava beans are no ordinary beans. They were highly regarded in ancient times and were thought to have mystical, magical power. Fava beans were offered to the gods. Archaeologists have found remnants of fava beans in Twelfth Dynasty pharaoh tombs. The beans are also mentioned in clay tablets found in Hattusa, the ancient capital of Hittite which was one of the oldest documented stew recipes.
In early Christianity, fava beans became a traditional symbol of Saint Joseph. During the feast day of Saint Joseph celebrated on March 19th, people carried blessed beans and placed them on the home altar dedicated to the saint. The celebration coincided with the start of spring and rebirth.
During New Years celebration, Armenians make a special bread called Tarehats (Year Bread). Nowadays we hide a coin inside the dough but in old traditions, a single fava bean was hidden inside the bread. After it was baked, the bread was cut and divided amongst the family members. The lucky person will get the bean and get the fortune of the year.
A similar tradition is also known in European countries during the Feast of the Epiphany celebrations. Twelfth-cake, king’s cake originally, had a fava bean hidden inside, which represented the Christ Child. The person who received a piece of cake with the hidden bean became the king. The “Bean King” had the right to choose his queen and manage the whole feast.
Are fava beans good for you?
For centuries people knew the power of fava beans, which were attributed to death and life, whereas the beans symbolized rebirth and a new start.
The Nutritional properties of fava beans are huge; high fiber, significant protein, and folate content make fava beans ideal for a healthy diet. One serving of fava beans is a wonderful source of zinc, copper, iron, and magnesium. For centuries they had a reputation for fighting malaria.
On the other hand, people who have an enzyme deficiency called favism should avoid fava beans, since they can cause allergic reactions.
How to prepare fresh green fava beans?
Tender and fresh green fava bean pods are thinner, squishy, and feel almost hollow. The bean seed inside is smaller. Mature bean strings have thicker pods with gigantic beans inside.
Wash the beans under running water. You might notice a few black spots on the beans that don’t wash off. The high iron in broad beans makes them prone to oxidation, so this is normal.
Fava beans are very fibrous which means that they have a very coarse string along the side. Snap off one end and pull down the string, snip the other end and remove the string from the other side.
Submerge the beans in a lemon water solution to prevent browning. For the mature beans, you can open the pods and remove the seed. The outer shell on the seed is edible and you have the option to leave it on. I usually don’t remove it and keep it as is.
Cut the beans into bite-size pieces. Thinly slice the onions and chop the parsley. Keep everything separate since we are going to put them in layers.
Drizzle the olive oil into a saute pan. Place a third of the beans into a pan, evenly distribute the third of the onions and do the same with parsley. Season each layer with salt and pepper.
Repeat the layering process in the same order.
Lastly, drizzle the vegetables with olive oil, and add boiling water and a generous amount of lemon juice.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to the size of the pan and place it on top, then place the lid on the pan.
Using high heat, bring to a rapid boil.
Lower the heat, and let cook for 20-25 minutes until the beans are soft.
Fava beans have an acquired a slightly acidic taste, with metallic notes. After a while, you adapt those flavors, and start noticing all the nuances from earthiness to sweetness.
I hope you can give this recipe a try!
Fresh Green Fava Bean Stew with Olive Oil and Onions
- 2 pounds Fava Bean tender stalks, cut into two-inch pieces
- 1 Onions sliced
- 1/2 cup parsley chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 cups of water
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- In a saute pan, drizzle half of the oil on the bottom and layer with the third of the fava bean.
- Evenly distribute 1/3 of the onions and parsley and season with salt and pepper.
- Continue the layers.
- Drizzle the rest of the oil, lemon juice and add the boiling water.
- Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes.
- Serve hot or at room temperature with rice.