Fresh fava beans (a.k.a. broad beans) are not front and center in American cuisine, but they sure do deserve a spotlight. Legumes are nutritional powerhouses for those who eat the beans and for the soil they fertilize as they grow and then decompose. Frequently eaten in cuisines of the Middle East, Europe, South America and Africa, fava beans are high in protein and fiber and rich in antioxidants. Fresh favas have a refreshing, bright earthy flavor and a creamy, buttery texture (moreso than their dried counterparts). They are delicious, nutritious and can be used in a multitude of preparations.
You can make the fresh fava bean the star of the dish with a fava bean purée (fresh fava beans are much creamier than canned) or in this vegetarian spin on shrimp scampi. Favas play nicely with others, too, pairing particularly well with other young spring vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus and peas. Blanched in a salad, sauteed in a spring vegetable medley or lightly braised in a ragout they are equally delicious. Favas lend vibrance and texture to a stewy preparation like shakshouka. A creamy, tangy smash hits the textural midpoint between a puree and leaving the beans whole.
To the uninitiated, any of these recipes will be a good introduction to working with fresh fava beans as each describes how to shuck and peel the beans. One word of caution: People who are G6PD deficient should avoid favas, fresh or dried.
For a rundown of how different cuisines embrace this versatile legume, check out Sylvia Thompson’s timeless ode to favas.