Ancient. It's one of the easiest plants to grow, and therefore is the most common but also one of the oldest in the world. Its origins, between the Old Continent and Asia, go back very far. In the Mediterranean, they date back to 6000 BC.
Blackspot. Its white flower, a prelude of the fruit that will soon arrive, can be identified by a unique feature: it has a black spot.
Crisp... and tender. Two rules apply to the perfect fava bean: its pod, which must be crisp to the touch, and its fruit, which instead must be very tender to reach perfection. If the two characteristics are vice versa, it means that the fava bean is old.
Dried. They are eaten fresh, cooked, but also dried. In Asian and European cultures, beans preserved from previous years are the foundation for appetizing dishes that require a long cooking time. For example, in Sardinia, Italy, they are popular in broth with fennel and pork rinds.
Ethiopian flour. Good flour is also made with fava beans. It originates from Ethiopia and is the basis of one of the most popular vegetarian dishes, the Hilibet, cooked with garlic, onions, green pepper and other fragrant spices. But fava bean flour is also used in Europe to reinforce other flours; it is also contained in that used to make the French baguette.
Falafel. Vegetable patties called falafel are widespread in the Middle East, and normally associated with chickpeas, but they are also made from fava beans, especially in Egypt. They are well-spiced, before being fried in sesame seeds.
Greece. The word "fava" in Greek does not refer to the bean itself, but to another legume that is somewhat similar: the grass pea (Lathyrus sativus). But the beans are just as popular and widespread in the Hellenic peninsula.
Horse bean. In addition to the fava bean from the vegetable garden, the bean has other types: the best known is the horse bean, named such because it is grown exclusively to feed animals.
Iron-rich. The fava bean is nutritious and high in a few fundamental minerals: the highest is iron, but also zinc and manganese. Fava beans are a good source of protein and vitamins.
June to September. It is planted in the winter but harvested in the warmer months. In the Mediterranean, it is a typical vegetable found in May, because it is too hot in the summer - but the rest of the world, it is mainly consumed from June until September.
Koukia. In ancient Rome and Greece there was talk of koukia, the fava bean, when it came to voting: to say "yes" they would vote with a fava bean or white bean, while a black bean would be used if the vote was "no". The term has remained in use to describe voting.
Legume. Together with peas and beans, fava beans are among the most beloved legumes - especially in vegetarian cooking - as an excellent substitute for meat in order to provide the necessary protein and balance out meals. It was brought to America by Europeans, but it does not enjoy the fame in the United States that it does on the "Old Continent".
Mediterranean gardens. There is no Mediterranean garden, whether urban or rural, that doesn't see fava beans sprout in the spring; they're often naturally planted, as they are carried by the wind.
Nitrogen fixation. Fava beans are also used in agriculture to ward off pests from other crops - a few of them just have to be hidden underground to save the neighboring plants. The beans enrich the soil with nitrogen, which is why they are the basis of natural fertilizers such as green manure.
Open-mouth nut. Sator is the name of fava beans in Thailand, loved and appreciated in various combinations of vegetarian dishes: the name means "seed of the open mouth".
Picnic. In early May in Italy, the fava bean is all the rage at picnics: in some areas it is exclusively eaten raw, peeled when it is to be eaten and accompanied by salami and pecorino. Pecorino is one of the best paired cheeses with cooked, boiled, pan friend or even deep fried fava beans.
Roscon de reyes. The fava bean symbolizes luck in different traditions, as well as bad luck. In Spain (but also in France and northern European, from Switzerland and further north) one fava bean is placed in the roscon de reyes, the cake served on the Epiphany. Those who find it have to pay for the cake. In many traditions, the fava bean is a symbol of abundance and a good harvest.
Skin removing. The bigger and more mature the beans are, it is indicated to remove the skin from the bean before eating as it can become hard and bitter. It is for this reason that it is not very popular in many cuisines of the world, where people find this too long and tiring.
Tlacoyos Mexico. One of the top-sellers of Mexican street food is the tlacoyo, a special tortilla stuffed with fava beans, salsa and cheese. The tlacoyo sold on the street is cooked to order in a portable mini oven and is served in three different colors, depending on the corn flour used. The most common color is blue.
Ubykh. For Caucasian populations who speak the Ubykh language, fava beans tell the future: they are thrown to the ground and indicate an omen depending on how they land.
Vicia faba. This is the Latin botanical name of the plant from which the fava bean originates. There are three species: the Malor, with larger beans, is commonly used for food. How can it be distinguished from others? The seeds are large and flattened, unlike those of the bean and pea.
Warts. In some cultures, the beans are also used to treat some minor annoyances; the velvety skin inside the pod, for example, relieves pain and quickly heals warts if rubbed on them.
X-chromosome. The mutation of a gene on the X chromosome can lead to a disease called favism: those who suffer from it cannot eat the beans. It is widespread in areas of the world where malaria is or was an endemic, because this gene aids in survival from the disease.
Young. What's the best way to taste fava beans? Young, fresh, just-picked and peeled: this is the moment in which they offer the best flavor.
Zen experience. Peeling the beans is considered an experience that offers calm and focus, a zen practice. It was traditionally done by women, sitting in a circle, with an apron full of freshly-picked fava beans resting on their laps. Hours of preparation and a lot of chatting: fava beans are a vegetable that preserves culture.