Fava beans are a summer crop in much of the world; here in southern California they're definitely a spring crop. Known as broad beans to the British, habas to the Mexicans and horse beans to Italian grandmothers, they're popular the world over.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Choose beans with taut skin; some freckling is acceptable, particularly later in the season, but avoid pods that are excessively brown; the beans won't be tender. The more pronounced the lumps are in the fava pod, the more mature they are, the stronger-tasting, and the more necessary it is to peel them. Try to buy pods with similar degrees of lumpiness, so that the beans will cook evenly.
In order to eat them, you need to shell them (i.e., take them out of the pod) and then peel the off-white, waxy coating off the inner bean. If you're going to cook them anyway, you can blanch the beans and apply pressure at the thicker end of the bean once cool to expel the bean from the coating. If you're going to use them raw, you're going to have to peel them carefully to avoid splitting the beans.
Fava beans make an appearance with dill in the Persian rice dish baghali polo, they're sometimes ground to make a variant of falafel, and when ground with garlic, sesame paste, lemon and olive oil they're called fuul mudammas, like a bright, slightly grassy hummus. We can't forget the old standby, though: liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti.