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Broad Beans (vicia faba)
When available: June to July.
Also known as fava beans, Broad beans are part of the legume family and are the first of the beans ready for picking on the farm each year.
Unlike french beans and runner beans, broad beans do not require an infrastructure of cane and support to grow up. The thick plant stems are self supporting and grow well outdoors.
Choose beans that are at least 15cm or 6 inches in length that feel firm and crisp to the touch. To harvest, simply twist the bean gently away from the plant stem taking care not to damage it.
It is best to start harvesting from the bottom of the plant where you are likely to find the largest beans.
Once picked, beans should be eaten or frozen within a few days for maximum flavour.
Broad beans originated in the Mediterranean regions around north Africa and western Asia and were an important food staple for many ancient civilisations including the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Broad beans are exceptionally well matched with salty foods such as Parmesan, bacon, anchovies and shellfish.
Lamb is a classic summertime pairing. When the weather is hot and broad beans also work well with lemon, mint, buffalo mozarella and a good quality olive oil.
Young soft beans can be simply removed from the outer shell and eaten whole. Larger, tougher beans will require double podding. It is easiest to remove the beans from the outer shell and blanch them for a minute or two in boiling water. Quickly place the beans into a bowl of iced water (you don't want them to overcook) then using a knife, nick and remove the outer shell.
We love this totally easy to make broad bean dip recipe. It showcases the versatility of broad beans and is sure to impress your summer party guests.
Best served with crispbreads or toasted focaccia.