Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fa-fa-fa-Fava Beans!

“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fa-fa-fava beans and a nice chianti.”
Hannibal Lector, “Silence of the Lambs"

Okay.  There.  I said it first.  Yep, we have fava beans at market today.  But no, we don't have any Chianti!  (although we highly recommend Whidbey Island's Live Edge Farm "Sill Hill Red" cab blend as a great local substitute.  They sell at the Bayview Farmer's Market!).  
Truly, if I had a dollar for every time I have heard that line when we have fava beans at the market well, I could pay off the big spring fertilizer bill I'm still working on!  But, you gotta give Hollywood credit for bringing attention to one of the world's most important historically and culturally legume that, in typical fashion of our Wonder Bread culture, the majority of American's have no clue about.
Growing fava's in the jet era. 
"Vicia Faba," aka Broad Bean, Horse Bean, Windsor Bean, Bell bean and Pigeon Bean, is one of the most ancient cultivated crops (originated around 6000 BC) and a diet staple in Asian, Middle Eastern, South African and European diets.  It is such a staple in Egyptian diets that it is the main ingredient of the Egyptian national dish "ful medames." It is so popular and has such a long history in certain cultures that men of Mediterranean descent are often prone to an allergey called "Favism" essentially triggered from generation upon generation of heavy munching of fava beans.
In Europe, in fact, the fava bean was the only legume consumed until the more common known bean species of North America were brought back across the oceans (along with other staples like the potato!). 
But heck, who is paying attention to all that? takes a big budget movie about a psycho cannibalistic killer to bring the fava bean to the attention of most Americans.  Sigh.  But whatever, I'll take it!
Because you see, Hannibal Lector was right.  Even if you don't pair it with liver pate from the census taker, fava beans are simply divine!  Especially when they are, as per this time of year, shelled and eaten at the "fresh" stage.  I.e., while the bean is still green and soft.  They have a earthy, yes somewhat "ancient" flavor reminiscent of peas and ancient alluvial plains and sweltering river deltas.  (okay, maybe taking a bit of poetic license there, but you catch my drift).
Along with being little known, the other thing about fava beans that has been the antithesis to American "I want it NOW" culture is that fava beans are the epitome of slow food.  Well, unless you can find them preshucked and preshelled and prepackaged (maybe Whole Foods?), but sorry, we don't do that at Willowood.  You are gonna have to, just a little bit, work for your favas.  Yep, you are going to have to shuck them AND THEN shell off the outside wrapper around each bean if you want to truly enjoy the bean that so enthralled American's most famous cannibal.
(Fava's once inspired one of my favorite customer "comments."  A friend, part of a busy, high-powered couple, who loved good food but were more used to eating it out then making it themselves.  After a few weeks of fava beans, the man commented/complained to me that while it was "quite a lot" of work, that he and his wife had found that sitting out on their porch looking at their lovely ocean view while they shucked fava beans made them feel like "real pioneer farmers."  I responded that well, that's nice, but you should probably first try tilling the soil, planting the beans, fertilizing, watering, weeding, harvesting and THEN shucking and shelling the beans all without running water and an outhouse toilet and living in a one-room sod cabin with 5 screaming kids before you consider yourself on par with a "real pioneer farmers.")
Shucking and shelling beans is a simple process really.  To shuck, you simple pull the string off of each pod and then use your thumbnail to slit open the pod and pop out the beans. Then, once they are all shucked you dunk the shelled beans into a pot of boiling water for oh, about 10 seconds.  That loosen up the outer skin on each individual bean.  Let them cool and then you slit each bean (a small paring knife works for this, but I just use my fingernail, nails are a good thing to have when preparing fava beans) and then squeeze the bean from the opposite side of the slit and the bright luxuriant green bean will pop out. Voila! 
Now, I really don't mind doing this.  I sit on my porch, or I (gasp) watch some tv, and it is a simple, relaxing mindless job.  Do it.  And don't complain.  After all people have been doing this literally since 6000 BC and you better bet they had a lot tougher lives than we do. 
Okay, so now that I have guilt-tripped you all into rushing to market today and buying a bunch of fava beans (hee-hee, the power of blogging!), here is what we will have at market along with our favas (and yes, we quite a nice list today!):
Willowood Farm
* Fava Beans (just in case you weren't paying attention)
* Walla Walla spring onions
* Kohlrabi
* Japanese "Hakurei" Salad Turnips
* Fresh Garlic on stalk
* Garlic scapes
* Mesclun (mildly spicy salad mix)
* Arugula
* Spinach
* Kale
* Chard
* Raab
* Beet Greens w/ baby beets
* Head Letuce (big red and green romaines this week!)
* Rhubarb (Bayview only)
* Pea Vines
* Baby Pac Choi
We will also have leeks and fresh herbs from Prairie Bottom Farm, grains from Georgina and Emmer/Farro from Ebey Road Farm, and Mikey from Whidbey Green Goods is bringing (Bayview only!) strawberries, carrots, cucumbers and eggplants from Skagit and Snohomish valleys.
So come see us at market!  Oh, and btw, here is a great fava bean spread recipe.  We highly recommend it spread on a crusty peasant type bread with some Little Brown Farm goat cheese chevre and a nice bottle of the Live Edge Farm Red Sill Hill cab blend!  Enjoy your "fa-fa-fa Fava Beans!"
See ya at market!
Farmer Georgie
Willowood Farm of Ebey's Prairie

Fava Bean Spread

2 pounds fava beans (unshelled)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Prepare the fava beans by carefully removing the beans from the outer protective pod. The beans are covered in a second layer that is difficult to remove when they are raw.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the beans for about 5 minutes. Rinse in cold water and let sit until they are cool enough to handle. The second layer of shell should be easy to remove at this point, and you are left with a shiny, bright green bean. (You will see at this point why you need two pounds of beans for a cup of spread!
Toss the beans in a saute pan with some olive oil, the garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beans are very tender.
In a blender or food processor, puree beans until mostly smooth. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with pita chips or baguette rounds or a crusty peasant bread.


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