Broad beans

We were actually looking for tins of biscuits but we passed the vegetables in the supermarket and there the  first broad beans I’ve seen this year. They are among my favourite vegetables and something I very much associate with my childhood. Dad always grew them in the garden so they put in a regular appearance on our dinner plates. We always had them with a buttery, peppery white sauce and I absolutely loved them. I didn’t learn until I was much older, in fact fairly recently, that most people serve them by slipping of their grey skins and just eating the green inside; we didn’t, I never have, and it seems an awful faff. I like them just as they are, with their smooth grey jackets and their bright green innards! I like them hot, or cooked and cold, on their own, in a sauce, and I imagine I would also like them as something resembling hummus – should they be cooked first, I wonder? When we had them as children, Dad would always prepare them because for some reason they stained my mum’s hands a dark blacky-brown – they didn’t with dad and they don’t with me!

Vicia faba, also known in the culinary sense as the broad bean, fava bean, or faba bean, is a species of flowering plant in the pea and bean family Fabaceae… 

…says Wikipedia, and they have been grown by people as long as people have been growing things as opposed to just gathering them when they see them ready to pick. I think that’s rather wonderful, to think of my earliest ancestors also enjoying broad beans. It is a marvellous plant to grow, apparently, just about any soil including clay and saline, in just about any climate, and are also good for you – or so I understand from their mineral and vitamin content, again, according to Wikipedia:

Raw mature fava beans – 11% water, 58% carbohydrates, 26% protein, 2% fat. 100 grams supplies 341 calories and numerous essential nutrients including folate and dietary minerals, such as manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron…

Broad beans have also played their part in a variety of human activities from voting to divination, to lucky charms and to be taken as a laxative. The oddest thing, I think is that the followers of Pythagoras were forbidden from ever eating, mentioning, or looking at beans – I’ve broken all his rules to day, looked at them ate them, and mentioned them!

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