To bean or not to bean


When it comes to favas, that is the question. Why? Because preparing fava beans is more than just a little time consuming. I learned that yesterday when it took me nearly 2 hours to prepare a simple fava bean salad. Actually not so simple.

And that leads me to an embarrassing story…

A few years ago, while living in the Methow Valley, I signed up for a CSA box from local organic farmer, Alexa Spivey. Alexa grows some amazing food, including big, fat, fuzzy-on-the-inside fava beans. I had no previous experience cooking fava beans, so I just did what made sense to me… shelled them, boiled them in salted water, and tossed them with a little butter and black pepper. Yummy! Delicious! Easy! I loved those beans and I could not understand why more people did not grow, sell and cook them.

Fast forward to yesterday. I wanted to try another recipe from my David Tanis cookbook – A Platter of Figs and other Recipes. Since Fava beans were available at Metropolitan Market, I decided on Fava Bean Salad with Ham and Mint. I bought the ingredients, put some water on to boil, and then I read the recipe. What the heck??

“Favas are more than a little fussy to peel, but peel you must!”

Huh? Peel them? I had no idea! All this time I’d been eating the inedible skin! So much for my culinary know-how and my sophisticated palate. That’s just embarrassing.

I read on…

“To remove their skins, blanch the beans in boiling water for 10 seconds, then cool in a large basin of ice water. Pop out the beans, piercing the gray-green skin with your thumbnail to free the bright green barely cooked bean.”

Okay, let me just say that is easier said than done. Oh, did I mention David’s recipe called for 10 pounds of fava  beans?? (I only bought 4 lbs. – but still.)

So I followed the directions, first shucking the beans from their pods, then blanching and peeling. My 4 lbs. of beans were reduced to less than 2 cups. This took well over an hour, and, believe me, I was working fast. The rest of the salad came together fairly quickly – thinly sliced fennel, diced ham, chopped green onion, fresh mint, arugula, and a dressing made from lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. I threw in some parmesan cheese just because. But in the end, the whole process took nearly 2 hours.

I took the salad to my book group. Everyone loved it. My girlfriends said things like “what a delicious edamame salad!” and “I love the edamame!” and “Did you get the edamame at the new West Seattle Trader Joes?”

“They are fava beans,” I replied, and then I poured myself another glass of wine.

So to answer the question, next time I will not bean. I will make this salad with edamame or peas. What do you think about favas? Are they worth the trouble? Would you spend 2 hours making a salad?


  1. […] making the fava bean salad from Hell last week (can I say that? It’s true…), I decided there must be a better, faster, […]

  2. Charlene says:

    Thanks for the warning on ‘fava beans’ prep. I have never worked with them in any recipie and think it may stay that way although they do sound yummy!

  3. Wow! Thanks for the warning, I too have not ventured into fava-land and think I may just wait until the kids are grown and I have a wee bit more time on my hands…or maybe I’ll still do something different. Great post!

    • MaryMiller says:

      Rachelle – I think fava beans would be super fun to grow – they are the Jack and the Beanstock beans! As for the cooking prep – I think it should be a group activity. It would be much more fun tackling the process as a team.

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