The Fabulous and Frustrating Fava bean

The farmers market is the only place left where we interact with someone who grew our food.” Deborah Madison


By Dana Zia

The Farmer’s Market opens on June 10th in Manzanita. Rain or shine, it is a glorious day for everyone in our community. Other than it being a feast for the senses, there are so many other reasons to shop at our local market. (Let me pull up my soapbox, ahem…) Eat locally, support small farmers, protect our environment, reduce your carbon footprint, connect with your community and food, nurture health, cultivate biodiversity, promote humane treatment of farm animals, slow down, enjoy life AND the food tastes better. MUCH much better.


One of my personal favorite reasons to shop at the farmer’s market is trying new foods. There is always something unusual that catches my eye that looks like produce from another planet, like fava beans AKA broad beans. I’ll never forget the first time I saw them as they arrived in a CSA box from Kingfisher Farms, thoughts of Jack and the giant beanstalk swirled in my mind. They look like enormous, bumpy green beans that could take you on a dangerous and magical journey.


These ancient beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants. They are the grandfather of the pea family and were the only bean in Europe for centuries. When the Americas were discovered (where most all beans come from) they fell from favor. Favas have been slow to catch on here, in the land of fast, because they are, well, let’s just say they are high maintenance. First you have to shuck them out of their pods, then boil them for just a few minutes, then pinch them out of their waxy skins.


So, why do it? For one, they are nutritional dynamos, loaded with fiber, iron, and so much protein that they have been called the meat of the poor. Supposedly they single handedly saved Italy from a great famine. For two, fava beans are very delicious with their lovely green buttery flavor. Oh, and they are good therapy for slowing down and getting in touch with your food. Make it a Sunday with friends, setting around shucking the beans. It’s better than chewing the fat!


One of my favorite ways to eat them is to take the shucked bean, (instructions on how to shuck them below) toss them in boiling water for a minute or two till they are bright green. Then scoop them out and squish them with garlic, olive oil, pepper and salt, serve on Bread And Ocean’s baguette and you are there. The magical world of the fava bean revealed.


Our community is very lucky to have so many devoted farmers bringing us many tender vegetables, (and hopefully Favas) coaxed out of the rain drenched warm earth. This incredibly aromatic recipe highlights the spring offerings of vegetables. Use your imagination on what to add, it can be served as a main vegetarian dish or a side.



Spring Market Veggies and Herbs


2 – 3 young spring onions, stalks and all

6 to 10 small sweet carrots

4 to 6 little turnips

3 – 4 small potatoes

2 pounds of fava beans, shucked

1 tablespoons of butter or olive oil

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary, sage or oregano

(Fresh tarragon is amazing in this recipe, if you can find it)

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Salt and pepper


Slice the onion bulbs into rounds, cutting far up into the tender stalks. Depending on the size of the carrots, turnips, and potatoes either leave whole or cut in half length ways, rinse.


Boil 4 – 6 cups of water in a large pan. Drop the shucked fava beans in the boiling water for 1 minute or so, then scoop them out and rinse them in cool water. (Make sure and save the yummy stock water for the next step) Coax the favas out of their skins by slicing a bean size slit in the smooth end with a knife and pinching them. (They can go pretty far when catapulted this way!) Compost the skins.


Melt tablespoon of butter in a large skillet; add the onions and sauté for about 2 minutes over medium heat till fragrant. Add a ½ cup of the stock water, the vegetables, half the herbs, 1 teaspoon of salt and a few cranks of pepper. With the lid on the pan, simmer/ steam until vegetables are cooked to your liking, about 10- 15 minutes, stirring gently now and then. Add stock water a ½ cup at a time to keep fluid in the pan for the sauce that is building. Add the fava beans, lemon juice, rest of herbs and stir till nicely blended. Remove from heat and let rest, with the lid on, just long enough for all the veggies to get to know each other. Remember, Fava beans don’t need to be cooked long. Serve with some of the sauce drizzled on top and a sprig of herbs for beauty.