With the spring, we are enjoying lots of fresh salad greens from the garden. We are growing two kinds of lettuce this season — green “Tree Lettuce” and “Asian Red.” Both are delicious and proving very pest resistant so far. We also have herbs, green onions, chrysanthemum greens and edible flowers to add to our salads, and the red orach should soon be ready as well.
We enjoyed the first new potatoes of the season yesterday evening. I hadn’t really planned to harvest any yet, but these were volunteers in a garden bed that I was trying to clear. I was amazed at how big and plentiful the potatoes were already. I hope all our potatoes will crop so well.
Broad beans (fava beans) are another spring garden treat for our dinner plates. Somehow the pollination seems not to have been so fantastic this year (despite all the bees I was seeing on the flowers), and the crop is not as large as we had hoped. The beans are delicious, though. Below is our favourite recipe for broad beans, taken from the August/September 1999 edition of “Kitchen Gardener” magazine. (Sadly, this magazine went out of productions some years ago.) We have leeks, celery, bay, oregano, and flat-leaf parsley in the garden at the moment, as well as the broad beans, so this recipe suits us very well. Our tomatoes won’t be producing fruit for several months, yet, so we are still using preserved ones from last season’s crop.
Meze of Garden Beans
1 onion or 1 leek, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
4 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped (fine with bottled ones, or even some tomato puree)
1 bay leaf
3 Tbs. fresh oregano, stripped from stem and crushed between fingers
2lb fresh fava (broad) beans, shelled
2 Tbs Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large saucepan, saute the leek (or onion) and celery in about half the olive oil until very tender. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and 2 Tbs of the oregano. Use all the liquid from the tomatoes, and supplement with a little water if necessary. This will be your braising liquid.
Add the beans and simmer gently over medium-low heat until they are tender — Perhaps 10 or 15 minutes, but could be a good deal longer depending on the size and freshness of the beans.
When the beans are just tender, add 1 or 2 Tbs. additional olive oil, the parsley, and the remaining 1 Tbs. chopped oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature. This is especially nice with fresh bread.
Fava or broad beans can cause a severe reaction (a life-threatening form of pernicious anemia), in people with an inherited susceptibility. This condition is known as Favism, and is most likely to occur in men of Mediterranean descent. I don’t know how common this problem is, but please be careful! (Thanks to IL for alerting me to this problem associated with broad beans.)