As a fledgling gardener, one thing I have been trying to do each year is to grow something new, so that I can expand my gardening knowledge and broaden my culinary horizons!
This past year I decided to try fava beans. Why? Because I was in a natural food market and saw these beautiful, huge, marinated, wonderfully flavored beans. They were in one of those “help yourself” bars along with marinated and/or pickled olives, mushrooms and peppers. They were so good!
There wasn’t a sign anywhere saying what kind of a bean they were, but a friendly customer next to me said she thought they were fava beans. So, I decided I would try growing my own fava beans and find a recipe for this wonderful, flavorful snack!
Turns out I was misinformed. The marinated beans were not fava beans, but a type of lima bean. Oh well. I had already bought the bean seeds and they had germinated by the time I figured this out. Speaking of the seeds…
I found a wonderful seed company that I just adore! They are based out of Chico, California and I had the opportunity to visit their store recently. More about that in another story to come soon.
So, on with the fava beans!
The beans were very quick to sprout and were setting their first true leaves within 10 days! Of course, I attribute some of this to my homemade kelp fertilizer, with the natural gibberellic acid in it, which is a growth hormone for plants.
I started the beans in an enclosed patio, about 4 weeks before the beginning of spring, because fava beans are much like english peas, they are somewhat of a cool weather crop and would be harvested sometime in May or June. I had a picture of the seedlings growing in their pots, but alas, my camera got run over by our truck (don’t ask) and I was unable to retrieve all of my pictures. 🙁 But, once I put them in the ground, they started growing…
I should have had some type of support for the plants, even though they are a bush type of bean, because some of the stems that were about 2 feet long started to twist and droop as they grew, I guess from their own weight. A few even broke. I’m not sure if that is the nature of the plant, or gardener (me) error. 😉
Once the fava bean plants began to bloom, I was totally in awe! The blossoms are gorgeous! The white with beautiful lavender throats really stood out. To me, they resembled an orchid. Apparently the pollinators thought they were pretty cool, also, because it wasn’t long before small, tiny bean pods developed. In fact, in the picture on the left, you can see a butterfly (or is that a moth) with it’s head plunged head into the flower! You can click on the picture for a better view.
Then we had a hail storm! Shoot! Nuts! The hail absolutely destroyed some of my garden plants and heavily damaged others. Luckily, the fava bean plants seemed to be fairly resilient. Though they were pretty well bruised, the leaves healed and recovered fairly quickly!
Within another month the bean pods were huge. I mean H U G E! You can see in the picture at the left that the pods are bigger than my fingers!
Once the outside of the pods started to show the bulge of the beans inside, it was time to harvest. Since I only had four bean plants (which I originally thought would be plenty to experiment with), I decided to dry them in the pod, as it didn’t seem like I was going to get very many actual beans. I harvested each pod as it appeared to have mature beans inside, let it dry in the pod, and then shucked the beans into a bowl. Oh, by the way, most other people in the world call them Broad Beans!
Let’s get real here. The plants grew well. The flowers were gorgeous. But this is all the beans I got?
Then, I went online to see how to prepare the beans.
I found this on Dr. Weil’s website:
Cooking time: 60-120 minutes
Liquid per cup of legume: 3 cups
How to cook fava beans: Soak overnight. Drain water. If your fava beans were not already shelled, you should be able to slip the outer skins off after soaking by squeezing the beans between your fingers. Once favas are shelled, fill pot with fresh, cold water for cooking. Place on stove and bring to a boil in a pot with a lid. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, tilting the lids slightly to allow steam to escape, and leave to cook for one to two hours, until tender or desired consistency.
Whaaaaaaaa….? I have to soak overnight and slip the outer skins off of EACH BEAN! That seems like a pretty time consuming task to me! These puppies better be worth it!
So, I soaked my meager bowl of fava beans overnight and then tried to “slip” off the skins. Umm… nope! The skins did not slip off in any way, shape or form. Then I started wondering if I had skinless beans (could I be so lucky?), and dug with my nail into one of the soaked beans to see.
Yeah – not very pretty. I guess this is what happens when you soak your fava beans longer than overnight, so that the skins will “slip” off. NOT!
Except mine were so thick they would not slip off. So, I decided to soak them for a little longer. Still didn’t work. I went ahead and gouged each skin off (not very carefully, as I grumbled the entire 1/2 hour it took me to do it), and finally boiled them for almost an hour.
The result? They pretty much turned to mush!
I guess the extra soaking didn’t do any favors for the texture of the cooked bean, because they all split apart and were almost unrecognizable as beans. Harruummph!
Were they good? Well, I guess so. I like beans, and these tasted like… well… beans!
But, rather than eat mushy beans, I decided to puree them and use them as a dip that is very similar to hummus. I found this recipe on the Whole Foods website. It was good! Not great, but good. If you try this recipe, I would recommend making the hummus at least an hour ahead of time and then let it sit for a while, allowing the flavors to meld.
Fava bean hummus. I tried to make it look pretty. . . really I tried.
My take on all of this? Well, let’s just say I am not going to grow fava beans this year. They took up waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy too much garden space for such little result.
One bowl of hummus. 😉
And since we didn’t swoon over their flavor and texture, why bother?
Was the experiment worth it? You bet! Now I have a better knowledge of what fava (broad) beans look like and taste like, how to grow them and how to prepare them. Who knows… someday I might have a larger garden and want to try growing then again, and I also have a greater appreciation of those who DO grow them.
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