by Jennifer Meehan
Fava beans are underrated. The height of their “fame” (if one could call it that) seems to have come from classic line, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice bottle of Chianti,” chillingly uttered by Dr. Hannibal Lechter in The Silence of the Lambs. That cultural moment was followed by a period during which every restaurant served scallops over fava bean puree for a year or so. Beyond that, most people seem to confuse them for lima beans (another delicious and underrated legume!).
That’s why I decided to spotlight the Fava in this week’s Greenmarket pick. Fava bean season is quite short – it barely lasts a month – so it’s important to grab them as soon as they appear at your farmers’ market. When I spotted a bin of fresh favas at Bodhi Tree Farm’s stand at the McCarren Park Greenmarket in Williamsburg this past weekend, I ran over, grabbed some beans, and chatted with Debi Farmer.
Debi has been working at the farm, located 20 minutes south of Trenton, New Jersey, since last summer after losing her full-time job. The owner of Bodhi Tree Farm is a friend, and Debi had already been helping out at the market stand and working on the farm on her days off, so the transition was smooth. She’s loving her new gig and especially enjoys seeing how different vegetables grow. (We both agreed that it can quite a revelation to discover something as simple as how some of your favorite vegetables grow.)
One of the reasons Debbie loves watching the fava beans mature is because of how beautifully the pods jut out of the bush. Debi’s been photographing various plants as they grow in hopes of displaying them at the stand and to help people get a sense of what their produce looks like while it’s still on the plant.
Bodhi Tree transplants most of their vegetables, so even though the weather has been erratic this spring, the seedlings have been able to establish roots in a controlled environment. The fava beans are planted in late winter/early spring, giving Bodhitree about a week’s head start over the other stands. If you can’t wait to get your fava bean fix you know where to find them first!
If cannibalism & Chianti isn’t your thing, one of Debi’s favorite ways to prepare favas is taking the beans out of the shell, blanching them for 1-2 minutes to remove the skin, then tossing them in a salad. She also said she likes to puree them with olive oil and garlic & use that as an alternate to pesto on pasta.
I also stopped by The General Greene to ask chef Ellie Shiveley, what she likes to do with favas. Being from the South she loves lots of butter! She cooks fava beans as you might cook butter beans or black eyed peas. First, she sautees some onions & green peppers with a whole stick of butter (yes, a whole stick!). Once they’ve caramelized, she adds in the fava beans & a little water and turns down the temperature so they begin to steam & soften up.