I've been picking Superaguadulce Morocoo Strain fava beans for a few weeks now. These are the fava plants that are currently hosting a whole community of aphids and the beneficial insects that feed upon them. There seems to be a rather good balance of good and bad bugs in the favas. The aphids haven't disappeared, but neither have they gotten badly out of control. It's really rather fun to watch what is going on there. The lady beetles (convergent and sevenspotted) continue to mate and lay eggs that hatch out to their ferocious looking offspring, that pupate on nearby plants, and emerge to start the whole cycle over again. The syrphid flies are laying their eggs and the larvae are feasting. Soldier beetles are feasting. The parasitic wasps are laying eggs in the aphids. And there's other bugs that I can't identify that are seeminly good hanging out as well. What a show! I took more photos of the bug community but can't really stomach pictures of bugs coupled with food, so perhaps I'll post those some other time.
Anyway, I've had a nice steady harvest of favas for a few weeks now. Not as much as I would like since the Crimson favas haven't produced any pods yet, but I've been able to pick enough to enjoy in a recipe about once a week. I'm not sure why, but the Crimson favas have taken a long time to set pods. I got so frustrated with the plants, they had been in full bloom for a month and not one pod was to be seen anywhere. They came close to being written off and being used as green manure. Perhaps the plants listened when I started threatening them with their imminent demise on a daily basis. But, they still live and finally have some pods setting! In the meantime I've been harvesting tender young leaves from the plants to use in a variety of ways. There was a short article in the SF Chronicle recently about fava greens that I found to be informative.
The inspiration for my latest fava dish came from a recipe I saw in a magazine recently. The combination of flavors appealed to me but I assembled them (and others) in my own way to make a more substantial dish. It's not for the faint of tongue, not that it's hot and spicy, but the ingredients have rather assertive flavors. I put this together on the fly last night and did not take the time to measure ingredients so this is a rather loose recipe. The easiest way to peel fava beans (after popping them out of the pods) is to blanch them in boiling water for a minute, drain them and shock them in ice water to stop the cooking. Drain the beans and then you should be able to squeeze them out of their skins, you might have to nick the skin with your fingernail to split the skin first. I think this recipe is probably best with beans that haven't gotten to big and starchy.
Fava Bean and Greens Crostini
1 ounce thin sliced pancetta cut in pieces
1 stalk of green garlic, minced
About 1 cup of shelled and peeled fava beans, coarsely chopped
a handful of tender young fava greens, coarsely chopped
a handful of arugula, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
aged pecorino cheese
extra virgin olive oil
sliced country style bread
Cook the pancetta with a bit of olive oil in a medium size saute pan over medium low heat until crisp. Remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Add the minced garlic to the pan and saute until soft (about half a minute). Add the chopped fava beans to the pan and saute about another minute. They shouldn't need much more cooking other than the minute of blanching to remove the peels. Turn off the heat and add the chopped greens to the pan and stir until the greens have wilted. Stir in the reserved pancetta.
Brush the bread with a little olive oil and toast it. Arrange the toast on a platter or individual plates. Pile the beans and greens on the toast. Season to taste with coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper. Use a vegetable peeler to shave some of the pecorino over each portion. Gild the lily with a drizzle of your finest extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!