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This week I’m eating: broad beans

The time has come to talk about broad beans. The absolute undoubted king of the beans, the bean to end all beans, the bean I eat three or four times a week when they’re in season – a season that is all too short.

Broad beans are available from early to mid-spring. By the time the hot days of November roll around they’ll be gone so go and buy them now, don’t bother reading the rest of the blog post, just fucking trust me on this. Come back when you’ve got them.

Right. Now that I’ve conveyed the urgency of this to you, I will address a very common complaint: “But I don’t like broad beans!”

This is incorrect. You are wrong. You only think you don’t like broad beans, and I can speak with some authority on this, because I never thought I liked broad beans either.

What you actually don’t like is incorrectly prepared broad beans. You see, broad beans require a bit of effort: first you have to take them out of their long, snaky pods (they look like twisted mutant pea pods), then you have to boil them for 1-2 minutes ONLY (I frequently just empty a kettle of boiling water over them and let them sit for a bit), AND THEN you have to go through the extra step of divorcing the delicious, delicious bright green broad bean from the white-ish casing that surrounds it.

Yes. They are double podded. Those sneaky bastards.

Beneath that tough horrible casing is the tasty part. If you think you don’t like broad beans, I am almost certain that whoever prepared them for you never bothered to remove the second pod. And if you ate them at my grandmother’s house, you also would’ve had to suffer through broad beans that had been boiled for 15 minutes. I used to dread September-October, because my grandparents had broad beans planted in their garden. All that effort growing the things just to brutalise them in the cooking.

Single tear.

Broad beans have a long and noble history. They are also known as fava beans, and they give their name to the great Roman patrician family Fabia – Wikipedia mentions that it is “uncertain whether the Fabii were of Latin or Sabine origin” which amused me because I’ve always felt fondly toward the Sabines given my name (okay it’s less amusing if I have to explain it).

One last interesting broad bean fact: when I was pushing them around my plate at my grandparents’ house, grandpa would cheerfully inform me that he had some hereditary human enzyme defect called a G6PD deficiency and that broad beans could potentially kill him. They never did, but the condition is called favism and it’s all very interesting, you can read about it here.

I won’t leave you with a recipe this week, because broad bean consumption should be a journey of exciting self-discovery. Just remember: boil for two minutes max and always, always remove the second pod. Check out the Gourmet Traveller for interesting things to do with broad beans; there’s a salad in there that involves broad beans, mint, parsley, dill, torn buffalo mozzarella, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. It’s delicious.


Image by Jane Cockman via Creative Commons Licence

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