Broad beans are synonymous with spring, with their presence so fleeting. Here in Australia, that is from September through October. It is one of our few true seasonal vegetables.
Catch them when harvested young and sweet, as towards the end of their season they can become very mealy. They have a flat, fur-lined pod enclosing seeds that are used in soups, purees, stews, salads, stir-fries and combined with rice and pasta.
Alternative Names for Broadbeans
Broad beans have been grown since ancient times, indigenous to Europe and a key source of sustenance in the Levant, Middle East and Mediterranean.
Allergies to Broad Beans
Unfortunately some people have a condition called favism,an allergy to raw broad beans that leads to anaemia and can render them toxic. Cooked broad beans do not have this reaction.
Buying and Storing Broad Beans
Choose crisp, moist and smaller (younger) beans whose pods are not bulging and do not have any spots and are not limp. They can be stored in the fridge for 2 or 3 days.
Cooking and Eating – Double Peel the Beans
Broad beans are one of those vegetables that are always being overcooked. It is best to first shell the beans, removing them from the pod, then to peel each bean as it has a thick outer skin. To do this, first, blanch the podded beans in boiling water for between 30 – 60 seconds only. Drain, and peel the outer skin away to reveal the tender green bean. It is fiddly but meditative and rewarding work.
Not only does the skin have a sharp taste, peeling the beans stops the habit of boiling them until that outer skin is tender. The result of overcooking is unappetising and destroys the the beautiful, essential springtime flavour of the broad bean.
As a rule, 1kg of whole broad beans yields about 350gm shelled beans.
Remove the beans from the pod and cook in boiling water for 3 minutes. Peel the pale skins to reveal the green bean. You can add the pods of the broad beans to the water while cooking them to intensify the broad bean flavour.
Suggestions for Eating
- Try Broad and Butter Bean Mash
Eat simply drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, or in spring-inspired salads.
Sprinkle with sea salt and eat as a snack with a beer.
For a pilaf, cook moghrabieh (large grain couscous) with saffron and vege stock. Then toss through blanched and peeled broad beans until heated through. Drain the moghrabieh and beans, stir through green coriander (cilantro), lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
Toss blanched, peeled broad beans with orrechiette, chilli, flat leafed parsley and extra virgin olive oil with shaved pecorino.
Braise, french style, in dry white wine with cos lettuce hearts, peas and spring onions.
Chop mint leaves and small spring onions finely, mash with some cooked and peeled broad beans. Add sea salt and black pepper, and the lemon juice. Spread toast with ricotta cheese and top with the broad bean mash.
This entry is cross-posted with our sister site, Heat in The Kitchen, as part of its theme of Tips and Hints.