When planted in the field, fava beans, a legume crop, have the ability to naturally nurture the fields with nutrients such as beneficial nitrogen.
Fava beans are often planted as a cover crop after the fall plants are tilled under, and spring is when the first smaller beans begin to emerge from the plants’ flowers.
Ranging from just a few inches in length when harvested at their earliest stage, the more mature pods average about 8 inches long, with large edible beans encased within.
While the pods are typically inedible when found at their more common fully matured state, the early harvest of young beans can be consumed pod and all — something I have become quite fond of over the years. Delivering a subtle sweet and nutty flavor, they are quite tasty when enjoyed chopped in salads, or added to soups and stews.
When harvested in their larger state, the pods should be unzipped and the beans removed. Each individual fava bean possesses a thin skin around the bean.
Due to the slightly bitter flavor of the skin and tougher texture, the skins are typically removed after a quick blanching followed by an ice soak.
The fava beans themselves are excellent when simply tossed in olive, oil, fresh herbs, and seasoned with salt and pepper. The beans are also excellent in pasta dishes, or used to make protein rich dips and spreads.
This week I prepared a simple fava bean crostini infused with garlic, fresh herbs and lemon.
Fava Bean Crostini
1 1/2 pounds plump fava beans
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly cracked pepper
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup crumbles feta cheese
1 dozen Toasted bread rounds
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove fava beans from the pods. The pods can go in the compost. Place the fava beans in the boiling water for about 3-4 minutes, then strain and place directly in an ice bath.
You can taste one of the beans before removing from the water, similar as you would with pasta, to ensure they are cooked through. Once the fava beans are chilled, remove the outer casing around the beans and discard.
In a mixing bowl, combine garlic, oil, balsamic, oregano, salt, pepper, and lemon zest and juice. Mix well.
Add fava beans, parsley and feta cheese. Toss until well incorporated. Serve a couple of tablespoons over each tasted bread round. Drizzle top with a little more olive oil and aged balsamic if desired.
Yield: 1 dozen appetizers.