Better known as the broad bean, Vicia faba is also known by many other names; fava bean, faba bean, field bean, bell bean, English bean, horse bean, Windsor bean, pigeon bean and tic(k) bean and is a species of the plant in the vetch and pea family Fabaceae.
It is reputed that the Greek mathematician Pythagoras believed that the fava beans contained the souls of the dead and therefore never ate or even looked at them. The ancient Romans used these for funeral rites, making them the forbidden legumes in ancient times.
The downside is that broad beans are associated with favism, a genetic defiency known as Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD deficiency). Carriers of this mutation do not show any symptoms unless their red blood cells are exposed to certain risks, such as fava beans which can trigger it.
Having said this, broad beans are rich in protein and energy just like all other beans and lentils. 100 g of beans carry 341 calories per 100 g. Broad beans also contain an abundance of health-benefiting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
At this time of year here in Malta, this little legume finds itself in a variety of dishes. I personally love them in any which way; raw with a nice cherry tomato and ricotta salad or cooked with garlic to add as a condiment that goes beautifully well with roast lamb. They sit well with peas and garlic butter for a springtime sidedish or else in a soup or with pasta.
James Davis is the COO of Bay Street Group that operates be.HOTEL