Popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking, fava beans resemble lima beans and have a rich, buttery flavor. They are also known as broad beans, English beans or horse beans. These shell beans come in large pods and are available fresh for a brief period in the spring, primarily at farmers' markets and increasingly at supermarkets as well. They are also sold dried.
Although fava beans require a bit of work to shell and peel, these delicacies are well worth the effort. They're delicious in salads, soups and pastas, and pair deliciously with other spring vegetables like asparagus and English peas. Tender spring fava beans are prized in Italy, where they are often eaten raw with young pecorino cheese.
Look for soft, pale green pods packed with pale green beans.
Store the beans, still in their pods, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to several days.
Before cooking, fresh fava beans must be shelled, or removed from their pods. Shell them as you would peas by first snapping off the stem and pulling away the tough string on the side of the pod. Then pop each pod open by pressing your thumbnails along its seam. Unless they have been picked while still quite young and small, the skin that covers each shelled bean must be removed before eating, as it is tough and bitter tasting.
To remove the skins, drop the shelled beans into a pot of boiling water and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold running water. Pinch each bean opposite the end where it was attached to the pod and squeeze; the bean should pop free. Use a paring knife to remove any stubborn skins.