When I was a kid, I tried to grow an avocado tree in a glass.
I wasn’t entirely crazy. My teacher suggested we try it. We wiped down the thick pits of avocadoes, wrapped them in wet paper towels, and lowered them into drinking glasses. There they sat, on the windowsill of our classroom, the paper towels slowly drying in the sunlight. I dutifully watered mine every day, then waited for a sprout, a tendril, something to emerge.
Nothing. Most of the kids gave up on their avocado. I kept trying. We had an avocado tree in the backyard of our house. It’s not as if I really needed the produce. I just wanted to grow something. We lived in Southern California, and we didn’t have a garden. Mostly, it was dirt. Dry dirt that turned into squelchy mud when we stood over it with the hose. My brother and I spent one afternoon making a mud-pie replica of Knott’s Berry Farm out of the mud in our backyard. But plants sprouting green leaves? Not so much.
I never did grow anything from that avocado.
(I looked it up just now, and apparently you have to perch the pit on toothpicks, suspended so that only the bottom half of it sits in the water. That’s probably what happened to ours.)
My entire life, I had never grown anything from seed, until this spring, when I grew fava beans.
I adore fava beans. (Okay, let’s all get it out of the way — “…with some fava beans and a nice bottle of Chianti.” I’m willing to bet that most of us think of Hannibal Lecter first when we think of these delicious beans. Sad. So push it away.) I came to them late in life. I never encountered them at the Alpha Beta store in Pomona, California in the 1970s. Favas are part of this group of foods I discovered after I had to go gluten-free. New and unusual once, now they are deep favorites, seasonal pleasures for which I wait all year.
Fava beans, when cooked well, have a wonderful taste, like walnuts and butter, with a vibrant splash of green thrown in too. I love them in purees, in salads, and mostly just salted and popped right into my mouth.
We may have bought them every spring and summer at the farmers’ market, but this year, I took a chance. I prepared a raised bed, waited until the warmth of this strangely mild February, and planted seeds. I planted snow peas, shelling peas, and fava beans in the same bed. The seeds were small in the palm of my hand, except for the fava beans. They were.…fava beans. I stuck them in the dark earth, watered them, looked at the dirt every day, and hoped.
And then, they grew. Seeds I planted finally grew.
The snow peas reached toward the sky. My brother told me that peas don’t need to be staked. (Yeah, I’m not listening to him again.) Soon, those plants sprawled all over the dirt. Still, there were enough peas for me and Lu to walk out to the garden every morning and pick peas, eat, pick more, then take some into Danny.
The fava bean plants kept growing.
They’re odd-looking plants. Enormous. Thick stalks. They grow tall, taller than any peas. And then the fava beans jut out at weird angles, pointing upward. (Let’s face it. They’re phallic.) When I first saw the small fava beans on those gargantuan plants, I squealed. I waited.
And then we picked them, took pictures, and celebrated.
I may not be much of a gardener yet. All the tomato plants but one have withered. The deer got everything that didn’t die. But our daughter ate the peas that I planted with her in February. And, improbably, I successfully grew fava beans from seed.
I’m planting twice as many plants next year.
White on Rice Couple Todd and Diane: Homemade Mint Chip Ice Cream
Nicole at Pinch My Salt: Green Beans with Balsamic Browned Butter
Margaret at A Way to Garden: storing herbs and one-pot Farinata
Food Network UK: Herbs and Greens.
Caroline at the Wright Recipes: Wax and Butter Bean Herbed Salad
Tigress in a Jam: Putting Up Greens and Beans and canning book giveaway
Caron at San Diego Foodstuff: Kale and Feta Empanadas and Roasted Romano Beans.
Alana at Eating From the Ground Up has Shirred Eggs with Fresh Herbs
Cate O’Malley at Sweetnicks: Green Bean Salad with Feta Vinaigrette
Kelly at Just a Taste: Fresh Herb Ricotta
Judy at Tuscan Diva: Tuscan Herb Blend
Tea at Tea and Cookies: Clean Out the Fridge Frittata
So now it’s your turn: Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? Starting with our posts of Wednesday, July 28, for five Wednesdays, you can contribute in various ways, big or small.
Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:
Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on my blog, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.
The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. Yes, copy and paste them everywhere! That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.
Or think bigger: Publish entire posts of your own, if you wish, and grab the juicy Summer Fest 2010 tomato badge (illustrated by Matt of Mattbites.com).
The 2010 Schedule:
- Wednesday, August 11: HERBS-BEANS-AND-GREENS WEEK (any one or both/all, your choice).
- Wednesday, August 18: STONE FRUIT.
- Wednesday, August 25: TOMATO WEEK. How do you like them love apples?
- And then…more, more, more if you want it (potatoes? sweet potatoes? root veggies? winter squash?). You name it.
This is a photo I took of the incredible lunch I had with Sharon at Sitka and Spruce. This small restaurant in Capitol Hill is one of our favorites now. Rather than having a set menu, the chefs decide on dishes based on the produce and meats available to them that day. On the day that Sharon and I visited, we were brought a salad of soft sauteed onions, salt cod, smoked paprika, dill, and fava beans. I nearly fainted after the first bite.
A few days later, Danny and I went back again. The salad had fava beans, still, but nearly everything else was different. I loved the play of it all.
These days, I’m not that interested in recipes. Are you? During the summer, all I want to eat is thick slices of watermelon, cucumber with a dash of rice wine vinegar, and something from the grill. I keep planning elaborate meals, and then when Danny comes home at nearly 11, we pan-sear some pork chops with plum jam for a quick glaze, dish up some brown rice from the rice cooker, and make a salad with fresh arugula, yellow heirloom tomatoes, and some sunflower seeds. Cooking for too long seems silly.
Fava beans are in that season. Once we have peeled them from their shells, blanched them, and peeled the casing from the beans, I just want to toss them in some olive oil and salt and fold them into a salad.
So, rather than giving you a recipe, we’d like to give you a challenge. Here are the foods that go especially well with fava beans, according to The Flavor Bible. (This is one of our most food-stained books in the kitchen.) What would you do with them?
Danny says he’d do grilled lamb chops with a fava bean-feta cheese puree, roasted chickpeas and mint, and a curried yogurt sauce.
How about you?