what to do with fava beans

i grew these fava beans

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.

Damned fine.

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.

This post is part of the community blogging event called Summer Fest 2010. Would you like more recipes for beans, greens, and herbs? Try these:

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

Jennifer and Mark at Gilded Fork have a virtual garden of herb recipes
Lavender Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze
Rosemary & Honey-Roasted Pears

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.

Join in!

salt cod and fava bean salad

What to Do with Fava Beans

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?

rainbow chard
olive oil
flat-leaf parsley
sea salt
spring onions
walnut oil

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?

46 comments on “what to do with fava beans

  1. Cajun Chef Ryan

    Fava beans in the garden, wow! I admire your gardening skills, and what a pleasure it is to grow them from seed as well.

    Confession, I have never cooked with fava beans, so I am patiently awaiting your readers suggestions as well.

    However, I would bet that cooking down some Cajun tasso with red onion and garlic then the fava beans with some chicken stock would be a fine first attempt!

    Bon appetit!

  2. Anna

    I haven't done much cooking with fava beans (now I am excited to give them a try) but I do know that they are really good for the soil. They help fix the nitrogen that lots of other plants take out of it. I guess there are lots of great reasons for these beans to be part of your garden.

  3. abbie

    oh my goodness! I just love your story about growing seeds. I gardened with my mother when I was young, but now stuck in the suburbs, I long for a green garden. (Maybe without deer.) 🙂

    I am joining in your summer fest today with this recipe…http://www.organizing-life.com/indian-spiced-chickpeas-and-kale/food/ a super quick, and delicious…who wants to be slaving in the kitchen when there is sun outside to enjoy? (Well, maybe in the name of preserving for the winter all that summer offers.)

    And for what I'd make for your challenge….maybe grilled redsnapper with plenty of lemon, olive oil and thyme. With fava beans over wilted red swiss chard sauteed in butter with savory and sea salt.

  4. GFree_Miel

    I feel as though every time I read your blog, there's something new that I have to try. I've never had fava beans before but that dish looks amazing. Definitely something I want to try now!


  5. Meg

    I'd peel them, sautee them in olive oil with spring onions, until the beans get a little charred, add some minced garlic at the end, and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Sprinkle fleur de sel on top of them, squeeze of lemon. That would probably go well with a nice creamy camembert and country bread. Maybe then eat with halibut or some other light, sustainably raised fish.

    I love favas! Congrats on successfully growing them! Next year, I'd like to grow these.

  6. Nurit - familyfriendlyfood

    Yeah, I remember growing avocado in a glass. In our house it actually grew but never had a piece of land to put it in the ground later on 🙂
    I tried this again a few times in the past years, now that we're here in WA and have a backyard, but nothing came out of the fruit’ stone. This makes me suspect that maybe the avocados are “programmed” not to make babies??? I’m becoming paranoid about genetically modified food…

  7. rebecca

    I LOVE fava beans!! The first time I ever had them, I'd read about the hell of peeling them, and so I was dreading the experience, but I found it so meditative and relaxing. And the delicious taste at the end helps too.

    I usually just pan-fry them with lemon, garlic and parsley… but I want to try a puree with some home made pasta next time :).

  8. Guinnah

    Love that you grew these – amazing. We received fava beans in the first week of our CSA and made one of our favorite Persian dishes: Persian Rice with Dill and Fava Beans

    It's gluten free if made with meat (we're veg so use a meat substitute). It's one of those dishes that you walk in the house and everyone knows what you've made for dinner – it smells so good. You've inspired me to add favas to our garden next year!

  9. Liz

    What about a mashed fava bean patty mixed with finely chopped walnuts and parsley, then fried like a falafel and served with a lemon-garlic yogurt sauce? Yum!

  10. ?¸¸.•*¨Skip to Malou¨¨*•.¸¸?¸

    I admire that you have a green garden. When I was growing up, we had a farm that we visit every weekend, and I remember I loved to run barefoot, and not afraid to get mud on my feet or pricked with thorns even. Wish I could have that now or just like you having to grow something in your own garden.

    Im a fan of yours Shauna and Im not afraid to admit!


  11. tom | tall clover farm

    Another great thing about fava beans if you're wanting to help your garden soil, is they make a great cover crop. That is if you plant them in the fall, they'll sprout, growing sparingly over winter, holding your soil and adding nutrients like nitrogen to it as well. When things warm up you harvest the beans and then just roto-till the fava plants into the soil to decompose and add richness to your soil.

  12. Lauren

    I love this! Fava beans are wonderful and it's always fun to play with them :). You did an amazing job growing them.

    When I was in about grade 4, my teacher got us to grow little plants. I think it was tomatoes, and we put them under the plant light (especially in the cold winters). The experiment for us was about what you fed the plant to make it grow. I believe one plant received Coke instead of water. I'm not too sure how well it fared, but I adored watching them all grow. Seeing a sprout come up and form into something even more beautiful.

    I wrote a little about playing with your food for summer fest – beans have so much possibility. http://bit.ly/94317l

  13. La Niña

    We are fava nuts. Or we're nuts over favas? My favorite way to eat them is so simple: Pop'em out of the pods, cook them in water about twenty minutes, run cold water over them and peel off the skins. Then throw them in the food processor with some garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper. Process until they turn into a paste.

    Spread that paste on crusty GF bread, or use it in a sandwich, or dip crackers in it… the color is magnificent and your friends will think it's guacamole and will be shocked when they taste it. "Wow, this is good, what is it?" said Paul.

    BTW, my mom could not throw away an avocado pit. they were staked with toothpicks and growing in every glass and jar she owned, and the plants were everywhere in her house. None of them ever bore avocados in Upstate New York… and when she passed away when I was 24 I had no idea what to do with them. I cringe every time I put an avocado pit in our compost bin… should I be growing it, I ask myself?

  14. Alana

    I absolutely adore favas with chopped up mint and a sprinkling of good salt. That's all they need–and they're magical.

  15. Creative Mom

    I had this wonderful fava bean salad here in Portland at Metrovino. It was whole roasted pods with house made ricotta, sea salt, balsamic reduction, and maybe mint saba. An amazing combination I want to recreate and serve with a whole cooked trout stuffed with lemon, basil, a little mint, butter and sea salt.

  16. One Hungry Mama

    How exciting. Hmm… fava beans growing in my lil patch of Bklyn? I might just have to try it.

    For this week's Summer Fest I posted a Hungry Mama round up of mostly greens and one herb recipe. You'll find Polenta Creamed Spinach, Hand-Held Syrian Spinach Pies, Chard & Mushroom Enchiladas, Kale Chips (really, though, my recipe has a kick that takes these up a notch!) and Tarragon Blackberry Grapefruit pops.

    But now I feel I must also share my fava bean salad with basil vinaigrette and crumbled egg.

  17. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    We're chatting about preserving herbs over at Simple Bites! We're trying to capitalize on summer's abundant crop and store it for winter. In today's post we cover when to pick herbs, drying and freezing.

    Don't miss out on the comments section either where our very savvy readers swap tips. My favorite? A working girl who dried herbs on trays in her car as it sits in the sun all day. Brilliant!


  18. Linda (Wales)

    We call these 'broad beans' in the UK. Very nice!
    Please don't judge your skill as a gardener by your tomatoes.They are easy to grow – if the weather is perfect for them. Otherwise they can suffer from blight, too much rain, not enough water, not enough sun, too much shade. Even in a greenhouse they can be tricky. I have a lovely crop, but they are refusing to turn red!

  19. Elizabeth

    I too await fava beans all year and this year I was lucky enough to have been given bowlfuls by a good friend.

    I eat them mostly plain, quickly sautéed in butter with a little salt and pepper.

    But last night I made a black bean salad with lima beans, feta, warm leeks and garlic, some fresh basil, a little miso, white wine and Dijon. It would have been so much better with fava beans though…

  20. Lana

    Your story on gardening reminds me of mine. I learned everything I knew from the Internet (I studied Liberal Arts and Languages, and they do not teach you how to grow things there!)
    And I admire you for tackling on the fava beans and succeeding.
    We have a wonderful Persian store near by, and they always have fava beans in season. My husband will incessantly quote H.L. and giggle – he is a movie geek, but I ignore him and continue on. The lines have to grow old one day…
    My contribution to the Summer Fest is a story and a recipe for a very comforting vegetarian Bean Stew.

  21. maybelle's mom

    i adore fava beans, and we didn't grow them this year, but your ekphrasis makes me want to do so. I actually just made pasta with fava bean flour… now I am gaving fantasies about growing my own flour as it were.

  22. Fran

    Oh yes, I had the very same avocado experience, but I didn't give up at childhood. I continued to try through the years. Lately I rooted lemongrass and it actually continued to grow in water! What an accomplishment for a high-rise dweller. 🙂

    I posted a Green Curry Shrimp recipe for my first Summer Fest contribution here: http://bit.ly/96cwR8

  23. Linda

    I grew a little plant from an avocado seed suspended in a jar of water with toothpicks. I even eventually planted it in a pot and kept it, for some reason, on top of my bed over head for years. It finally fell on the head of a guest a few years later. What a mess.

  24. alanachernila

    I planted favas for the first time this year too- and my favorite part? The crazy flowers. It was like some alien plant in my garden, and there were no pods- just those wild black and white flowers and then one day? fava beans. I too, will grow twice as many next year- braised with a little wine and stock- I'll eat them every day.

  25. ShareWIK

    I love fava beans!! As well as your blog – the recipes are to DIE for. I have a website, http://www.shareWIK.com, and would love to hear from you! ShareWIK (share What I Know) is a website devoted to bringing together women from all different situations and backgrounds (as well as a few men!) to talk about their experiences and learn from each other. We are taking about Celiac Disease this week on ShareWIK, and I would love your intake. Just sign up to get started. Hope to hear from you!
    – Diana Keough
    P.S. And keep up the great work!

  26. Chez Us

    I have to admit, I still occasionally, try to grow an avocado tree from the pit – even though we have a monster tree in our yard. I tried and tried as a child also … nothing!

    Favas are so easy to grow. I am glad you had success with them. I have found that they are one of the few things I can grow out in foggy San Francisco. We are big eaters of the fava. Lenny is Portuguese and grew up eating them – a staple in their home. I have learned to adapt a few of his mother's recipes, to using fresh instead of the dried. Not only delicious but so pretty to look at before devouring!

  27. Nicole

    I fell in love with fava beans while living in Sicily. I love sauteeing them in olive oil with maybe some fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. Simple and delicious! I hope to grow my own someday, too.

  28. veganscene

    I have beans in my garden, too. They make for really lush, magical, vine looking creatures. I'm currently experiencing both a bean AND green glut! It's fun and I know I'll miss it in December, although by then we'll be on to purple Brussels's sprouts!!

    Different ways I've been using my bounty:




  29. Merideth!

    I too have tried to grow avocado trees, to no avail, in drinking glasses. And then, when I wasn't even trying, I grew at least three in my compost bin! One is thriving now, having been plucked from the compost and put into soil and a pot. It's very exciting to grow things from seed, I know, and I'm usually not successful. The key seems to be how you remove the seed- I always whack the seed with a knife and then pull it out of the avocado, and they grow like champions in the moist nutrients (yuck, really). I also accidentally grew pumpkins from my composting Halloween pumpkin. Maybe this is strange and I should be keeping it to myself, but it's just too exciting to me!

    Someone else mentioned a cajun dish- have you done a gluten-free roux? I'm going to have to search and/or experiment, because that sounds so, so yummy.

    Bon appetit!

  30. Carly

    When I was in Egypt this past Spring I encountered one of the national staples: Fuul.

    At its heart, Fuul is full of fava beans and is very common for breakfast or lunch because it is hearty and cheap. However fuul can be made a number of ways, with my favourite being in a cooked in a spicy tomato-based sauce with some onions 🙂

    I can send you a pick of my fave incarnation when I was there but I suggest you try researching and trialing some recipes.

  31. Stephanie

    Hi there,

    I have a fledgling blog and I'd like to do a stone fruit post to join Summer Fest 2010 this coming Wednesday. I've downloaded the tomato graphic, but I want to make sure I give the right explainer about it. I'd also like to direct my readers to other blogs participating in Summer Fest 2010. Is there a central list of who's participating and what the Summer Fest people would like me to say?

    Thanks so much! Looking forward to reading your stone fruit post. (:


  32. sodium girl

    Hi Shauna – First of all, wow. I can't believe that I am only writing on your blog for the first time now. I've been reading your first book recently (as I'm prepping to write my own) and have found so many similarities between your spirited and creative approach to gluten-free cooking as I have had with my own sodium restrictions. I hope to have as much success and joy as you and Danny have had and of course, to touch so many people that need the help and positive guidance.

    But enough with the gushy blog love, I am really excited to participate in your Summer Fest and look forward to including some recipes for your upcoming themes! As for fava beans, I would use them in my Sole and Succotash Hot Pockets:


    And on a side-note, if you ever have a moment to talk to someone who is green in the blogging business (but eager and ambitious), I'd love to pluck your mind and heart for advice.

    All the best and thank you again for proving that eating within boundaries can make you ultimately feel boundless!

    Jessica Goldman, Sodium Girl

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