Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fava Bean and Greens Crostini

Superagualdulce Morocco Strain Favas

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.

Crimson Fava Pods

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!


  1. The recipe sounds delicious. Thanks, I'll try it out here soon as we have lots of broad beans (favas) at the moment. We find it's not really necessary to take the skins of the actual beans, just pod them. In fact a couple of weeks ago we ate small ones whole in their pods and they were very good. Glad to hear that your purple flowered favas survived the green manure threat to produce pods!

  2. Hi chaiselongue, the beans are good with the skins, in my opinion, but not my husband's! Oh the things we do for our dear ones. :) I'm looking forward to trying the crimson ones. Last year I had to save all the seeds because I started them too late and they didn't produce much before the weather got too hot.

  3. Thanks to chaiselongue for letting me know that Peter Rabbit's broad beans are the same as favas! But back to you, Michelle--excellent recipe! You are so lucky I live hours away or I would be on your doorstep, holding out an empty plate.

    The insect world commentary was illuminating. I'll be extra nice to my neighbors today, in gratitude that they aren't busy trying to kill me and my family.

  4. Gorgeous favas! Thanks for the recipe. Where did you buy your seeds?

  5. I'm saving that recipe! This is when I truly feel I live 'down under'. May is the planting month for fava (broad) beans here in Sydney, and the crops of beans are ready here in September. Enjoy yours now – they're my favourite green vegie. But I'm saving that recipe, sounds yummy.

  6. It looks like your crimson favas have gotten more than just a few feet tall..? I'm really looking forward to having these in my garden this fall/winter. Even if they don't make pods.

  7. Daffodil, you will have to compete with my husband with that plate, but I'll be sure to make extra! It's a bug-eat-bug world out there to be sure.

    Jackie, the Superaguadulces came from Gourmet Seed International and the Crimsons came from Copia via the Seed Savers Exchange, but now you can get them from

    Jamie, my husband loves favas and is begging me to make him a favorite dish that I can't make because my plants aren't producing enough beans. I might have to go to the farmer's market and *gasp* buy some more!

    Chuck, the plants are 4 feet tall right now and most of them have strong stems that don't flop over. I'm hoping to find room in the garden this fall to grow some more - see if starting them earlier will get them to produce beans earlier.

  8. I am growing the Crimson flowered fava's this year as well. Mine are still pretty small being that I reside in zone 5. Beautiful plants!


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