Broad beans (Vicia faba) also known as Fava/Faba beans are one of the oldest plants known to be cultivated. These beans are an important part of Mediterranean cuisine and their use dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Due to their distinct taste and flavor, they are used in a wide variety of dishes across the globe.
What are Broad Beans?
Broad beans are a member of the Fabaceae (pea) family and are native to North Africa and Southwest Asia. These beans grow on thick plants which can grow up to 3-4 feet tall. These plants have thick bluish-green branches and oval-shaped leaves. They bear white flowers with black dots that produce pods as fruit. These pods are 2-4 inches long and have around 3-8 seeds. The seeds are oblong shaped and can grow in many colors like white, yellow, green, and pinkish red.
Broad beans are also used as a cover crop to shield the soil since they grow rapidly and yield a lot of greenery. Moreover, these beans are nitrogen fixers, providing vital nutrients to the soil. As a result, broad beans are a farmer’s favorite.
Broad beans are usually planted in February or March and grow best in warmer climates. It takes about four to six months for the plants to mature and produce beans. These beans are usually shelled and peeled before eating. The outer peel on the beans, although edible, is woody in texture and undermines the buttery feel of the inner bean. Generally, the beans are cooked before being consumed because some people might develop an allergic reaction (favism) to the raw beans.
Varieties of Broad Beans
Broad beans come in three different varieties: Long-pod, Windsor, and dwarf.
What Do Broad Beans Taste Like?
Broad beans have a sweet, yet mild flavor and a tender and succulent texture which makes them a popular ingredient in multiple dishes.
Culinary Uses of Broad Beans
The leaves of broad beans are consumed as vegetables, either steamed or boiled. The beans are used either fresh, canned, or dried. Broad beans are added into various soups (try our Minestrone soup recipe by substituting broad beans for kidney for that extra kick of flavor) stews and broths. They are incorporated into many poultry, lamb, or seafood dishes due to their unique texture and flavor.
They are served as appetizers and are blended into various sauces and spreads. Check out our Frittedda Siciliana recipe that is packed with beans, mint, and artichokes. Or perhaps you would love the fermented spicy version in our recipe for Vegan Mapo Tofu. Broad beans are quite versatile and taste equally amazing whether cooked into a wholesome breakfast, lighter lunch, or a classic dinner.
Feature Image: Chris Reading from Pixabay