Vicia faba, also known as the broad bean, fava bean, faba bean, field bean, bell bean, English bean, horse bean, Windsor bean, pigeon bean and tic(k) bean, is a species of flowering plant in the vetch and pea family Fabaceae. It is not a true bean.
The origin of broad beans is obscure, but the best information indicates the Mediterranean area.
Fava or Broad beans have been found in the earliest human settlements, remains are reported to have been found in Egyptian tombs. They probably originated in the Near East during the Neolithic Age and by the Bronze Age had spread to Northern Italy. They have been found in lakeside settlements in Switzerland and in Britain at Glastonbury. In Egypt, the beans were considered commoner food and were shunned by the upper classes.
Fava beans were cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. In ancient Rome, they were used in funeral rites.
It is said that Pythagoras, the famous Greek philosopher and mathematician, forbade the eating of fava beans because they contained the souls of the dead.
Broad beans are generally eaten while still young and tender, enabling harvesting to begin as early as the middle of spring for plants started under glass or overwintered in a protected location, but even the main crop sown in early spring will be ready from mid to late summer. Horse beans, left to mature fully, are usually harvested in the late autumn, and are then eaten as a pulse. The immature pods are also cooked and eaten, and the young leaves of the plant can also be eaten, either raw or cooked as a pot herb (like spinach).
Broad beans were a major food of old Mediterranean civilizations, particularly for the Romans and Ancient Greeks
Preparing broad beans involves first removing the beans from their pods, the beans have a waxy outer coating, which you'll need to remove. Blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds, and then transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. The waxy coating will slip off.
The beans can be fried, causing the skin to split open, and then salted and/or spiced to produce a savory, crunchy snack. These are popular in China, Malaysia, Colombia, Peru (habas saladas), Guatemala (habas), Mexico (habas con chile), Gilan (North of Iran) and Thailand (where their name means "open-mouth nut").
Good looking beans... Nice and big!
Go ahead and make your jokes about fava beans and a nice Chianti. There's no denying that these fresh, meaty beans are delicious, and they are in season right now, so grab them up!
Most Americans aren't familiar with fava beans, so we hope this post will make them seem less mysterious and cause more people to give them a try.
It takes a lot of bean pods to produce enough fava beans per serving, so plan on buying one pound bean pods per person. Select pods that are green and somewhat smooth. If the beans are over-bulging underneath the pods, that means they are older and likely to be bitter.
Pull off the top and "unzip" the seam of the bean pod.
Open the pod and remove the beans. There are
usually 4 to 5 beans per pod.
The beans have a waxy outer coating, which you'll need to remove. Blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds, and then transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. The waxy coating will slip right off.
Now ready for most recipes.
From here, you can steam them till tender, and toss them in a mixture of salt, olive oil, and lemon juice. Or you can mash them and spread them on bruschetta, or fold them into mashed potatoes. They're also a great addition to a green salad, a risotto dish, or pasta.