Food & Drink

Harvesting Broad Fava Beans – how many ways do you think you can eat them?

June 30, 2012
Harvesting Broad (Fava) Beans - how many ways do you think you can eat them?

Broad (Fava) Beans

Are you a fan of broad beans (or fava beans as they’re known in the majority of countries around the world)? Have you even tried them?

I wrote a blog post a while ago about how easy it is to grow these hardy beans, but basically just pop a seed in the soil and watch it grow!

Harvesting Broad (Fava) Beans - how many ways do you think you can eat them?

Broad (Fava) Bean Flowers

Watching the plants grow, smelling the beautiful scented blossoms as they develop never ceases to bring a smile.Baby broad (fava) bean

Have you ever observed how a bean appears? I was enthralled the first time I saw it, checking my plants daily to see if there’d been a development overnight. Firstly the flowers open, then as they wither you’ll notice tiny little beanlets replacing them. The pods develop on the bottom of the plant first, so that’s where you’ll find them first. When they’re ripe for picking just twist them off the stems rather than pulling which will prevent an accidental stem snapping. As the plant continues to grow, more beans will appear, working their way upwards.

Harvesting Broad (Fava) Beans - how many ways do you think you can eat them?

A morning’s harvest

 

Outside my bean plants never usually make it past waist height but this year in the polytunnel they were over six-foot tall – that’s a whole lotta beans!

So once your beans are developing what then? How do you know when to harvest them?

Would it surprise you that you can prepare a simple broad bean in at least five different ways?

Different ways of preparing broad (fava) beans

  1. Starting with a bean pod about a little finger in length, you can leave these whole, top and tail then add to stir fries, steam or add to stews.
  2. As they grow larger, about middle finger length, slice them into 1cm pieces and cook – we usually steam and serve them as an accompanying veg.
  3. Larger still, when you can see the bulges of the beans growing inside, split the pods open, remove the beans and add to salads, steam or become more adventurous with different bean recipes.
  4. If you find the waxy outer shell of the beans too tough, you can split these open to  reveal tiny little pea sized tender beans. The easiest way to do this is to put them into  boiling water for a minute, then plunge into cold water and pull off the skins. I’ve watched a friend sit and double pod her broad beans in this way but I have to admit to taking the lazy option – serving them hot onto plates and the diner can choose whether they would like to take this fiddly option.
  5. Finally you can dry them – lovely for winter stews. The simplest way is to leave the pods on the plants until they go brown and dry up.
broad (fava) bean tops

broad (fava) bean tops

As if that’s not enough variations of a meal from one plant, the tender tops can also be removed and lightly steamed just like spring beans. Pick them when the plant is still flowering but before the pods form. This will help the pods to swell and prevent blackfly too as they’re very attracted to the tasty tops. Wash the tops a couple of times and steam them for a few minutes.

Wikipedia lists many other ways of cooking broad or fava beans in countries around the world – I like the idea of frying them (which splits their shells) then salt or spices are added making them a tasty snack – might give this a go!

black bean aphid

black bean aphid

It’s important to keep picking beans as this will encourage more – stop picking and the plant will stop producing.

You can either harvest the beans as you require them, or pick them all, blanch and freeze. Blanching involves placing the washed and prepared beans into boiling water for two minutes then plunging into cold water. I find it easier to bag  them into portion sizes bags (I usually serve up four portions with family meals so that’s how many spoonfuls end up in my bags) then freeze them. Blanching prevents enzymes building up when defrosting and helps to retain the texture and flavour.

nitrogen nodules on broad beans

nitrogen nodules on broad beans

Once you’ve removed all the beans from the plants, cut the stems off at ground level digging the roots into the soil. You might notice nitrogen nodules growing on the roots which following plants will benefit from (the nodules ‘fix’ nitrogen into the soil.) Disease free stems can be added to the compost heap.

Have you any favourite recipes for using these versatile beans?

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11 Comments

  • Reply Móna Wise June 30, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Incase I have never told you this Dee – I love your Blog. I find myself waiting for the right moment to sit and read and learn from every blogpost you write. I am never bored with what you have to say and ALWAYS learn something handy – like the nitrogen ‘fix’ for the bean plants. yes – we have beans and a few recipes. Ours will be picked and podded next week and I will include in the Sunday Times column or on the blog. Keep at it – you are fab!

    • Reply greensideupveg June 30, 2012 at 11:04 pm

      Mona thank you so much! Am completely touched by your comment and glad you find the blog useful. Know what you mean about the time though! We’re now on the fifth batch of your cookies btw. Our girls made them Thursday and they’re making delicious gifts. Am a bit of a blogaholic so no plans to stop just yet! :))

  • Reply Margaret June 30, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    I love broad beans. They’re good in risottos, broad bean and bacon or pea and bean risotto.

    • Reply greensideupveg June 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm

      It’s surprisingly how many people I come across haven’t tried them Margaret. Guess it’s because they’re not readily available in supermarkets.

  • Reply Pedro Pompeyo Osores Morante July 1, 2012 at 5:05 am

    You can make whit honey and milk “frejol colado”

  • Reply La Vie en Rose July 2, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    I’ve never tried them! will rectify this though after your post! I love their flowers- just beautiful!

    Sharon

    • Reply greensideupveg July 3, 2012 at 12:44 am

      You’re not alone Sharon… as they’re not readily available in supermarkets many people have yet to try them. Best of luck sourcing them & let me know what you think and if you can’t find them you could always plant a few seeds in October ;)

  • Reply madsmckeever June 22, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I like making hummus and falafels with the dried ones.

    • Reply greensideupveg June 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      Mmm that sounds good Mads. Do you have recipes? I’m growing lots this year for the pigs. Am sure I could spare a few & try them.

  • Reply Ken April 10, 2014 at 1:37 am

    I grew fava beans for the first time last year out of curiosity after finding a single six pack of plants at the local nursery. I had a small crop and decided not to bother again. When I pulled down the plants at the end of the season, I found several pods I had missed that had dried on the plants. I planted a couple dozen of the dried seeds in the same spot where the row was the previous year. It looked like almost every bean sprouted and the yield is great this year. Unfortunately the weather jumped from the seventies of the past several weeks to the mid nineties for the past three days and hit the plants hard. will be cooking fava beans in the next couple days and leaving several pods to dry on the plants again.

    • Reply greensideupveg April 10, 2014 at 9:44 am

      That’s a lovely story Ken and something I often mention when I’m with a group – the best way to learn is from experience and/or our mistakes! I wasn’t sure about Fava beans to begin with either but they’re such a great vegetable I’ve learnt to enjoy them. Good luck with your seedsaving!

    I love reading your comments, they're much appreciated and will always be replied to.

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