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Jan 25, 2002 11:04 PM

Fava beans--eat 'em raw

  • l

Over the holidays, I was food shopping with a visiting French friend, when suddenly we saw fresh fava beans in the market. Being an east-coaster now, she became excited seeing them this time of year, ("Putain," she cried, "C'est pas vrai!") so we tossed a few big handfuls in a bag and brought them home. At dinner, she introduced me to the way her family used to eat them when she was growing up:

Serve them in their pods, accompanied by good crusty bread, butter, and salt. Living in L.A., I couldn't find any good crusty bread, so I settled for Whole Foods ciabatta. But I did happen to have some Plugra on hand and fleur de sel, so we were sitting pretty. Pop a fava bean out of the pod, peel off its outer coating, dip it in the salt, pop it in your mouth, and follow with a morsel of generously buttered bread. Heaven! They have an aftertaste of a very fresh, very young artichoke. The experience is almost a French version of eating edamame, but more textural. Do try!

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  1. Interesting. I just saw fresh fava beans at a store in Queens NY a couple of days ago. So now I just need to locate some fleur de sel.

    BTW Leslie, I saw you on a Ready Set Cook (or whatever the name of the foodtv show is) rerun recently. Was it fun ? It seemed that when you were asked to comment you suddenly realized that they wanted you to make a whole critique in a one sentence sound bite.


    1 Reply
    1. re: wrayb
      Leslie Brenner

      Wray, they're good with any kind of sea salt--you don't have to kill yourself trying to find fleur de sel. If you can find some nice gray sel de mer, that would be great.

      Yes, it was fun doing that Ready, Set, Cook! I did two episodes, and both times they ran long, and our time for commenting was cut. I was the tie-breaker both times--what a responsibility!

    2. There are some people, usually of Mediterranean descent who should not eat favas, which can trigger a form of anemia. The condition is called favism. The same people may not be able to tolerate anti-malarial drugs, but they are naturally resistant to malaria. See link below.


      3 Replies
      1. re: zora
        Leslie Brenner

        Wow--that's so interesting. I had no idea! I just looked at the link you provided and it also says that people who have it should not take aspirin or Vitamin C (asorbic acid).

        1. re: zora
          Janet A. Zimmerman

          And on a related note, don't ever eat raw or undercooked lima beans -- they can contain cyanogens, Cooking, though, totally removes the cyanogens.

          1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman
            Barney Grubbs

            From what I've read, most strains of lima beans (at least in the US) have had most of the cyanide-producing ability bred out of them.


            (and other links when you google "lima beans cyanide"
            (Despite knowing this, I still haven't gotten over my childhood dislike of them. Fava beans are another story entirely)


        2. I just wanted to repeat the warning elsewhere on this thread and make it clear in the thread title. This can be deadly. You may not know if you have this intolerance.You can just remove the pod and shell the beans from the skin and quickly pass them in hot melted butter to cook them fast if they're tender.
          Do not chance it.
          Some people are so sensitive that even feeling the lining of the pods can cause their fingers to tingle and swell slightly.
          Oh and avoid Fugu liver while you're at it. Not worth the risk.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jerome
            Leslie Brenner

            Thank you for the extra warning, Jerome. But actually, for those with favism (I've done some reading on the subject in the past few days, including a wonderful 1996 L.A. Times piece by Russ Parsons), even cooked favas are dangerous. There is indeed a greater chance of a reaction to those with the condition in favas that are either raw or partially cooked, so passing them quickly in hot butter to cook them doesn't necessarily make them okay. In the meantime, I'm happy I don't have the condition because, as I said, they sure are delicious.

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