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Aug 7, 2011 06:26 AM

Fava beans—let me get this straight

In the US, I feel as though we mostly see favas in season, fresh, flattish, and green. But when I order them from Middle Eastern restaurants, they're usually smaller and brown—looking and tasting a lot like pintos, in fact. Is this a change that occurs through drying, maturation, long cooking, or what? I'm getting mixed answers on the Google machine.


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  1. I have mostly seen fried fava beans in Hispanic markets. They are sort of a golden-brown color. I suppose they are soaked and and cooked like any other dried bean. I overcooked some once and turned them into refried beans but did not like the resulting texture.

    1. Fresh are green. The canned and dried are brown. They are also called broadbeans.

      You can only buy them fresh for about two months out of the year. I would think they don't try to can fresh ones. I suppose it is the drying that changes them. I think the canned ones are made from dried beans.

      When fresh boiled, they remain green. Fava-Fennel salad: a spring favorite.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Cathy

        Yes, I'm very familiar with them in the fresh green form. But you must be right that the drying's the key.

      2. The green favas are immature beans. If you leave the pods to mature on the plants, they will turn black and dry up. The beans inside will also be dry and can be stored for a very long time.

        5 Replies
          1. re: earthygoat

            The smaller one you see in Middle eastern resturuants are also a different strain of fava. The big (quarter size or so) light tan ones you see in hispanic markets etc. are mostly orginally Italian, Spanish or likewise western Mediterrenean types (as are the ones that come out of South America, those having derived from southern european strains that traveled to Latin America (in the opposite direction from the common bean, which went the other way). The Middle Eastern variety is much smaller (dime size or so) much darker (usually medium brown) and usally lacks the "pinched" look the wstern favas do around the hilum (seed scar). They actually much older strains than the bigger ones, which is party why they are usually smaller and darker (if you go really into the depths of the Fava's center of diversity, you can find ones that are the size of bb pellets and jet black, but those are not really for human consuption) In trade this smaller types is sometimes called the "marrone" or "bell pea". It is often used in a manner similar to pinto's. It is also the key ingredinet in Egyptina foul, and the original egyptina recipe for falafel.

            1. re: jumpingmonk

              The prices for fresh fava beans still in their pods are so ridicously cheap at Middle Eastern supermarkets compared to what you have to pay at a farmer's market or a chain supermarket like Ralphs, assuming they even sell it.

              But,I've never really noticed any difference between the fresh fava beans you get in pods at Middle Eastern supermarkets vs. the ones in grocery stores or farmers markets. Nothing ever jumped out that they was any difference in size or color.

              1. re: hobbess

                It's not in M.E. markets that I've seen the brown beans but in restaurant dishes like the below, from a Lebanese place, which was just listed as "favas."

                Interestingly, though, I've also had a fava dish called bissara at a Moroccan restaurant that *was* green:

                1. re: hobbess

                  I imagine with the fresh, in pod ones there probably is none, at least if you are anywhere outside of the Middle East itself. Most of the fava market in the US Europe or S. America is (orinally) Italian, Spanish etc. based, so those groups tend to look for thier kind of favas. And since green favas are not so high profit a crop to justify shipping them green (when they are fairly perishable, at least when compared to mature dry seed). it's a firly good bet that any fresh green favas in pod will be grown more locally (within the US for example). What I was referring to was the kind you can find in the dried bean section. And to be honest, I don't know if the small old kind will be found at every Middle Eastern supermarket. I know mine has them, but it could be the exception. A lot of legume heavy cultures are pretty good about adapting thier recipies to alternate pulses as they become more availalble/more common/cheaper. The indian pulse Van dal is supposed to be the spit seed of a white form of hyacinth bean, but nowadays it's just as likey to be done with limas as hyacinth beans (especially ones that aren't white) can be rather toxic. A lot of Thai recipies utilize the kernel of the candlenut for thickening, but nowadays as the candlenut is again toxic in large amounts, a lot of cooks subsitiute macadamias. And when, in the early 1600's, Spanish explorers and traders first brought peanuts to Africa (from South America). the native tribes switched to them from thier own native subterrenean legumes (Bambarra groundnut and Kersting's Groundnut) to such a degree that the orginial native ones are now almost extinct and unknown.