Friday, April 22, 2016

Do you think I overdid it this time?

 I never went near a fava bean until 2 years ago - We were in the highlands of Equador with Heifer project to learn about developing collective co-ops among small independent farmers.  In one farm, the farmer brought out two well roasted guinea pigs and a bowl of steaming hot lava beans with fresh olive oil and a bit of salt... they were so good!  (I felt it was my duty to also have a good serving of guinea pig - sort of like rabbit... I liked it! ) .  But I discovered the favas are delicious - and I determined then and there to grow my own.

One small part of my fava "farm"
No vegetable on earth is easier to plant and grow, and is more productive
 than favas  All you have to do it scratch the soil ( before the fall rain is best ) stick in a seed and forget about it. No need to water or weed - leave it to nature.  With the winter rains, the seeds grow and thrive into a nice small bush...  I dont what what ever got into my head this year - but I plugged in dozens of seeds all over my yard I was thinking that in the heart of winter its nice to see green healthy plants growing and thriving . 

Beans inside their pods

 But now our back yard is a fava bean forest - the plants are now as tall as I am - dozens of them with beautiful long 9 inch pods - each with between 3-6 seeds larger than a Lima bean,  I like them (Judy doesn't) - but I tell her that they are also adding Nitrogen to the soil - and they look rather nice.

Shelled favas
Fava beans have quite a history... prior to the time of Columbus Europe did not know the beans that we value most today... Favas are grown in the Mediterranean  countries, but also through much of Europe.   British gardeners have long prized them , and call them "broad beans".  The nursery rhyme "pease porridge hot" refers to broad beans,  also the story of  "Jack and the Magical Beanstalk"  refer to favas.   Dried favas were soaked and served aboard the slave ships bringing their cargo from Africa to the North American Plantations.
Dried favas ( go to a Mexican market to buy a packet for next years planting!)

Humans have been eating them since 6000BC ( and also genetically modifying them by plant breeding to create the modern varieties   The early Egyptians, loved them (and still do) - in ancient times they were considered to have magical properties,  The Greeks have long enjoyed them (with the exception of  Pythagoras - who would not allow his followers to eat them - I dont know why). The Romans (ancient and modern) created tasty recipes, they are known in India, Africa,  China, and  Mexico and Central America.  They are popular in Spain and Portugal and the Azores ..  Favas can adapt to cold climates: they can be planted after the last hard freeze.  The big puzzle is why they haven't ever really caught on with most North American gardeners.  One reason may be the unfortunate nickname they picked up in America - "Horsebean" - This is the power of bad press!

But some considered them sacred - The Romans saw the fava bean pod and seed as  visual metaphors of human sexual parts. Some of the early Romans had very active imaginations!
Favas made like hummus - Lebanese

I also learned something else about favas from the hill country of Peru - I was told that the people of the land - cook the favas in boiling water - with the seed coat remaining on the beans - its a nice texture and flavor.  "City people" - " those in wealthy restaurants" insist that the beans have the seed coat removed from each bean - frankly I dont get it... I  enjoy the complete bean with the seed coats present... I guess that makes me a peasant..

The painstaking task of peeling each bean

So what am I going to do with all my favas? - I enjoy giving them away - (please if you read this,  please come and pick some up!)  I do enjoy eating them - and they are very adaptable to many different ways of cooking.  Some I will dry.  After I pick them, the plants will end up in my compost and will decompose nicely during the summer.

Favas and Portuguesa linguesa - Yum!

Here is a sample of a few recipes -

You can even buy them canned - OK - but not nearly as tasty ( think of canned peas and fresh peas)