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Beans: French beans »« Aubergine/Eggplant

Beans Broad beans

Vicia faba


Broad beans, also known as fava beans, are a legume native to North Africa. While at the supermarket they’re most likely to be found in the frozen section, they’re easy to grow in the garden and that’s where you’ll find them at their best. Small ones can be eaten raw, while larger ones can be removed from their pod and cooked.

The pod is large and leathery, while the bean inside is covered in a thick, pale green skin, which can be removed to reveal the bright green, creamy bean within.

High in iron and protein, their flavour is normally described as being slightly nutty.



Beans are one of the earliest plants known in cultivation. It is believed that they have been part of humans’ diet since at least 6,000BC. The name ‘fava bean’ comes from Italian and simply means ‘broad bean’. Until the Americas were discovered, these were practically the only beans known to Europeans.

They have long been used throughout the world; they are a key ingredient in traditional Egyptian breakfast dish ful medames, in which they are cooked with spices and served with eggs, and in parts of Asia and Latin America are commonly eaten fried until crispy, as a type of bar snack called habas fritas.


Blanched and skinned, the broad bean can find favour with a much larger audience. It’s more labour-intensive, but the stunning colour and the texture makes the extra work worth it.

Add them to any spring salad, to a risotto, or try pureeing them. Experiment with adding other flavours such as parmesan or pecorino cheese, and serve as a dip with colourful vegetables for a striking party snack.


The magic beans in the folk tale ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ were probably broad beans.

In Portugal, Christmas cake is baked with one broad bean inside. Whoever gets the bean in their slice has to buy the next year’s cake.

Broad beans are rich in tyramine and should be avoided by those taking MAO inhibitors, a type of anti-depressant. However, there’s good news – they’re also rich in l-dopa, which is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Beans: French beans »« Aubergine/Eggplant


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