Fava beans originate from Europe and are among the most ancient crops to be cultivated, dating back to at least 6000BC. Fava beans are low-maintenance and grow in cool weather. Fava beans are great because they are unaffected by cold conditions and clay soils, but they are susceptible to rust and fungal disease of the leaves. Fava beans can also be started in spring and harvested through summer.
Fava beans grow upright to a height of 2-5ft. Fava beans often require staking as they mature to keep the plant stable. The leaves of young fava beans are pale green, and can be eaten! You can eat them straight off the plant! Fava leaves contain a sweet and nutty flavor just like their beans, and make a great leafy addition to salads.
Fava beans grow from the flowers of the plant in bright green pods. If these green pods are harvested early while they are still early, the beans can be eaten whole like other bush beans. However, to get the full flavor of the fava beans, wait to harvest the green pods until they grow 6-8 inches long.
After harvesting the green pods comes the difficult part. Shelling fava beans is a difficult process. To start the process, snap the tip of the green pod back with your finger. Next, peel back the string until the pod is completely split along its seam.
Once the pod is split open, you’ll find a row of white beans-what you see when you first open the pod is not the actual beans themselves, but the thick waxy shell covering the beans. To get to the actual fava beans, you have to do shuck the casing.
The easiest way to get rid of the casing is to parboil the beans for a minute in a pan of water. Afterwards, strain them, and dunk the beans back into ice water to prevent the beans from cooking anymore. Hopefully during this process, some of the white shell has cracked open to reveal a bright bean inside. This is the actual fava bean. The shell should now be soft enough to squeeze the sides to pop out the bean. If this doesn’t work, you can also slice the top of the shell with your fingernail to squeeze the bean out that way.
Enjoy your fava beans in risotto or you can even make fava bean ice cream!
Enjoy and happy Gardening!
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