My friend Alice called to report that she’d just been to the Columbia City farmers market, where her pickings included cherries and strawberries.
“Local fruit is back!” she said. She was making strawberry shortcake for a dinner party we were both attending, a line of thinking that I readily encouraged. She told me she’d spotted fava beans at the market.
I got excited. “How big were they?”
“I wasn’t really looking at them,” she said.
I considered driving out to Columbia City just to see what a harvest-sized pod should look like but only made it as far as our community garden. In our absence the patch had become overrun by fava plants, which were weighed down with swollen pods. Faithful readers may remember I planted these cold-weather legumes months ago, hoping the beans’ nitrogen fixing capabilities would replenish the soil. The strategy seemed to be working; adjacent chard and scallions were twice the size of more remote counterparts.
The original plan was to grow favas not just for the nitrogen but for the beans themselves, a two-fer, but it’s been such slow going that recently I considered tearing the plants out to make room for summer crops. It being summer and all. Yesterday, though, some pods seemed ripe so I broke one open. The beans were about the size of a penny and encased in plush, velvety padding.
I picked the biggest pods then headed home to do some research. There was a big haul coming, if I could just stay patient, and I wanted to be prepared. I’d only eaten these things fresh once before, served with rabbit-stuffed ravioli at Union, and needed something simpler. Cookbooks recommended mixing them into stews or mashing them on grilled bread. Fellow bloggers were more inventive. Poppy at Mixed Greens had created a good-looking fava puree with herbs, and Hank at Hunter Angler had several helpful posts about the beans from earlier this spring.
In the end I opted to eat them plain, which is to say blanched, skinned, and mixed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. The prep went sort of slowly but seemed like something that could go more smoothly with practice. I sampled the thick skins, which are said to cause gas, and the taste was reminiscent of edamame. The beans themselves had a faint bite like lime zest and a nice watery quality.
But I’m still not sure what to do with the imminent harvest … I’m open to suggestions.