In season: fava beans

Fava beans are the gourmet darling of the bean world. They’re not often brought to market here in the Atlanta area, but for the next few weeks Megan Davis of Habitat Farm in Mansfield will have fresh fava beans at the Saturday Snellville and Marietta Square farmers markets as well as at the Tuesday Whistle Stop Farmers Market in Norcross.

Home cooks won’t be the only ones enjoying the farm’s fava beans. The farm has just begun selling to local restaurants like Vino Venue in Dunwoody and Sotto Sotto and Fritti in Atlanta’s Inman Park.

It was her culinary background that prompted Davis and her husband Tyler to plant fava beans. “They’re such an unusual gourmet vegetable and it seems like they’re becoming really trendy. I wanted to cook with them,” said Davis.

She also knew that no matter how delicious the harvest, the plants themselves would be good for the pasture land the Davis’ are reclaiming on their new farm. At the end of the harvest they’ll cut down the plants and till the roots into the soil. The roots are where the plants store nitrogen and tilling them in makes the nitrogen available for other plants, in effect fertilizing the soil.

Fava beans went into the ground early in March, one sowing of about 600 row feet. Davis estimates they’ll get about 1,000 pounds of beans from that planting and should have fresh fava beans at market for two or three weeks. In the fall, they’ll plant again.

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A fully grown fava bean pod looks a bit like a sugar snap pea on steroids. No doubt one reason they’re such a gourmet item is the amount of work it takes to go from fava bean in the pod to fava bean in your recipe.

First step in preparation is shelling the beans. Snap off the end and zip the attached string down the pod. It will split open revealing a line of large bright green beans shaped a lot like lima beans. But the beans still aren’t ready to eat.

Each bean is covered with a waxy-looking skin. Although some say you can eat the skin, most cooks will remove that skin, which can be a little tough and bitter. That step requires boiling the beans for just a minute and then popping the bright green bean out of its skin. Now they’re ready to eat.

Davis likes to use fava beans for succotash, a dish she creates on the spot with flavorful olive oil, fava beans, fresh corn, red onion and garlic. Another favorite way to use the beans is to make a dip similar to hummus.

There’s still time to sign up for Habitat Farm’s community-supported agriculture program. The new farm is home to an even larger population of hens and ducks and an egg subscription can be added to the weekly basket of produce. More information is available at http://habitatfarms.com/.

At local farmers markets

Cooking demos:

4 – 8 p.m., Thursday, June 6. Chef Seth Freedman of Forage and Flame offers demos throughout the evening.

9 a.m. Saturday, June 8. Chef David Larkworthy, Five Seasons Brewery, working with blueberries. Morningside Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.morningsidemarket.com

10 a.m. Saturday, June 8. Chef Ron Eyester, Rosebud and Family Dog. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.peachtreeroadfarmersmarket.com

11 a.m. Saturday, June 8. Emily Myers of Emily G’s Jam. Green Market at Piedmont Park, Atlanta. www.piedmontpark.org

Noon. Saturday, June 8. James Liles, Sprig. Green Market at Piedmont Park, Atlanta. www.piedmontpark.org

For sale

Vegetables and fruit: artichokes, arugula, Asian greens, beets, blackberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, collards, cucumbers, dandelion, English peas, fava beans, fennel, garlic and green garlic, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, lamb’s quarters, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, parsnips, peaches, potatoes, radicchio, radishes, rutabaga, sorrel, spinach, spring onions, strawberries, sugar snaps, summer squash, tomatoes, turnips

From local reports

TAP’s Creamy Fava Bean Succotash

This recipe comes from Nick McCormick, executive chef at the Midtown gastropub TAP. He recommends serving this succotash as a side dish with grilled fish or chicken.

Hands on: 30 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6

It will take at least 2 pounds of fava beans in the pod to yield 3 cups shelled beans.

1 cup oyster mushrooms, stems trimmed

6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided

3 cups shelled fava beans

1/4 pound pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup white wine

1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/4 cup chopped chives

1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss mushrooms with 1 teaspoon olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast until mushrooms lose their liquid and turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir mushrooms at least three times during roasting. Remove from oven and set aside.

While mushrooms are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Drop in beans and boil until skins start to shrivel, about 1 minute. Drain beans and drop into ice water. When cool, drain beans and peel off outer skin. Discard skins and set beans aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and saute until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove pancetta from pan and pour off any remaining fat, but do not wipe out pan. Add another tablespoon olive oil, lower heat to medium and add shallots and garlic. Cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. After 30 seconds, add reserved mushrooms and fava beans, corn and cream. Raise heat and cook until cream reduces by half, about 4 minutes. Add parsley, chives, tarragon and lemon juice. Toss gently, then add remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil, season to taste and serve while hot.

Adapted from a recipe by chef Nick McCormick of TAP.

Per serving: 617 calories (percent of calories from fat, 46), 28 grams protein, 56 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams fiber, 32 grams fat (12 grams saturated), 68 milligrams cholesterol, 542 milligrams sodium.

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