Broad Beans

Broad Beans

General Information: Broad beans can be intimidating to those who are not totally familiar with them. They look a bit like overly-mature swollen peas, and as the only legume that needs peeling twice, they are also labor intensive. Despite this non-approachable presence, broad beans continue to be one of the Mediterranean’s most popular vegetables…as well as the spring darling of many trendy chefs? Prior to the influx of new world vegetables, the broad bean was the only legume consumed in Europe. Today, fresh broad beans are mostly enjoyed throughout Italy, Morocco, and Egypt. Dried broad beans are available almost everywhere, and remain an important source of protein throughout the year in many cultures.

Season: Fresh broad beans are available from mid-March through mid-June.

Purchasing Tips: Look for large, bright-looking and plump pods. Avoid any which are slimy or have black spots. If possible, run a thumb along the pods to make sure they are full.

Storage Tips: Like any fresh legume, broad beans will begin to lose their flavor and nutrition once they are harvested. Store unpeeled broad beans in the refrigerator for a maximum of 2-3 days. Alternatively, peel the beans twice, then store the small uncooked beans in cold water for 1-2 days (this will take up less room in the refrigerator).

Cooking Tips: Early-season broad beans are quite tender and delicate in flavor. They are often enjoyed raw with a touch of olive oil, lemon and salt. As the beans mature, they take on a slight bitterness and must be cooked. These are usually added to soups or stews. Dried broad beans are normally re-hydrated, cooked until soft, then puréed. Remove the beans from their pod by running your thumb along the seam to dislodge the beans. Plunge the beans in boiling water for one minute, then immediately plunge them into cold water. The outer hull can now be removed by gently peeling or squeezing it away. The beans can now be eaten raw (if young) or cooked for 2-5 minutes.

Nutritional Info: Broad beans are high in protein and carbohydrates (above average relative to other legumes). One negative side effect is favism. This condition mostly affects people of middle-eastern or African heritage. Consuming under cooked broad beans can cause severe cases of anemia, although the incidences are rare.

 

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