The Real Cost of Fava Beans

As winter slowly releases its icy grip on the north, I get pretty desperate for any vegetable that isn’t a root. It is pretty exciting when green things start to reappear in the grocery, even if they have to be trucked in from California in late April. So it is with fresh fava beans, a clear indication that it’s spring somewhere.

Green, green fava beans

And at only $2.99/lb, they’re a steal. Well, not quite. Most vegetables entail some amount of waste, and in the case of fava beans it’s a whole lot. The beans are encased in pods, like peas, and then each bean has a thick shell around it that also needs to be removed. 

Fava bean WASTE

How much waste is this? The total weight of everything was 9 3/8 oz (although the Wedge charged me for 10 1/4 oz–I wonder whose scale is wrong). The weight of the edible beanswas 1 5/8 oz, while the weight of the pods and shells was 7 7/8 oz (slight discrepancy here due to my scale being accurate only to somewhere more than 1/8 oz). Only 17% of what you buy is edible. $2.99/lb? In terms of food you can actually eat, it’s more like $17.50/lb. Yikes! Such is desperation for at the end of a long winter.

This wouldn’t seem so bad if you could come up with a useful way to employ the pods and shells. Anybody have any ideas?


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6 comments on “The Real Cost of Fava Beans”

  1. Linda 27 April, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    These little fava beans look like they are growing teeth!! How different are fava beans from lima beans?

  2. Tom 27 April, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    In terms of shape they look exactly the same. This paella recipe (from Penelope Casas—thank you Juan and Linda) actually called for both favas and limas. The flavor is pretty different though; the favas have a very distinctive, sharp flavor that I really only associate with fava beans whereas limas have that starchy blandness that everyone loves to hate.

  3. Linda 28 April, 2009 at 5:00 am

    Yes, I really love to hate lima beans as you say.

  4. Mike 28 April, 2009 at 11:02 am

    I’ve found that I can eat my outer shell of the fava beans and it isn’t too tough and tastes alright. Any reason to exclude it?

  5. Tom 28 April, 2009 at 11:20 am

    How big were your favas? I’ve read that for the very young, tender ones the shell can be eaten but it should be removed for bigger ones. I have never actually tried eating the inner shell, but I will have to; it would certainly save a lot of time.

  6. Mike 28 April, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    My favas were about 6 inches in the pod, maybe an inch long in the outer shell and slightly less inside. They didn’t have those sprouts that yours have.

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