Spring beans

Here’s to spring produce and farmers’ markets, and simple recipes made from real foods!

salsified broad beans

One of the things I love most about this season is the broad beans. At Saturday’s markets visit, I gathered together my stash of green pods and promptly spent many minutes at my outside table unwinding my mind as I peeled and chatted and grinned in glee.

This reaction belies my early experiences with these vibrant legumes, musty memories involving flavourless tags of boiled grey leather that almost defied chewing and definitely defied swallowing.

Eating broad beans does not have to be this way. In fact, when consumed young and in season, broad beans are absolutely yummy uncooked with little else to accompany them.


Recipe #138: Raw broad bean salsa. I very loosely call this a recipe, because the quantities and even the ingredients themselves are so open to personal taste. This “recipe” serves 4 as a side, an accompaniment to leek fritters, a topping for a soup.

Take 20 or so fresh broad bean pods. Remove the beans from their pods by unzipping them at the seam, and reduce them to their inner bean by pinching and peeling away their skins. I guess you could cook and cool your beans before salsifying them, just be aware they may not have the same fresh taste or textural beauty.

Roughly chop your beans (littler beans can be used whole) and place them into a bowl with handfuls of your favourite soft herbs; I used finely chopped parsley and fennel along with very, very finely minced zest from around half a lemon. Add a generous pinch of salt, a good grinding of pepper, and enough olive oil to make the beans glisten. Let the flavours infuse for about an hour, then taste and season further if desired.


Aside from tasting delicious, broad beans (aka “fava/faba/horse beans”) are incredibly healthful too. They contain minerals, such as iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese and copper, fibre, Vitamins A, B1 and B6, and are known to be beneficial for digestive, heart, skin, bone, teeth and eye health [1,2].

Another fabulous facet of broad beans is the fact that they contain L-dopa, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine, which controls or contributes to mood, sleep, movement, libido (so just about every bodily function!), and it is used to treat Parkinson’s disease [1,2,3].

An aside: A number of references warn not to eat raw broad beans in large quantities due to the presence of phytohemagglutinin, which is a lectin [4,5]. Lectins are types of proteins found in dairy foods and plants, such as grains, legumes, and the nightshade family, and they can cause symptoms including nausea, cramps and diarrhea [5,6,7]. They are not all bad, however; lectins have a useful role to play with respect to differentiating or even deactivating cancer cells [7,8]. While I am aware that some people have experienced rather dangerous reactions, I have never suffered ill effects from eating raw broad beans, and I think that this could be due to the prohibitive effort required to prepare broad beans en masse — plus I am wondering just how much of the lectin content is actually in the skin of the bean, which I compost.

Finally. Broad beans are so steeped in history that I was tempted to include notes on their sacred past, but that was before I discovered Coquinaria, a collection of historical and seminal recipes by an intrepid Dutch collector. Please do take a look at this site, particularly the entry on broad beans. I promise it will expand your culinary horizons.

Ever smiling,

H šŸ™‚


  1. Nutrition-and-You (2012) “Fava beans nutrition facts” on http://www.nutrition-and-you.com [online]. Available via http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/fava-beans.html; accessed on 1 October 2012.
  2. Organic Authority (2010) “Fava Beans” on Organic Authority [online]. Available via http://www.organicauthority.com/vegetables/fava-beans.html; accessed on 1 October 2012.
  3. Siegenthaler, M. (2003) “Dopamine” on Homepage for Molecular Biology Web Assignments, Davidson College [online]. Available via http://www.bio.davidson.edu/Courses/Molbio/MolStudents/spring2003/Siegenthaler/Dopaminesite.htm; accessed on 28 September 2012.
  4. TheHealthBenefitsOf.com (2012) “Broad Beans” on TheHealthBenefitsOf.com [online]. Available via http://thehealthbenefitsof.com/broad-beans/; accessed on 1 October 2012.
  5. US Food and Drug Administration (2012) “BBB – Phytohaemagglutinin” on Bad Bug Book: Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins Handbook [online]. Available via http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/foodborneillness/foodborneillnessfoodbornepathogensnaturaltoxins/badbugbook/ucm071092.htm; accessed on 1 October 2012.
  6. Sisson, M. (2010) “The Lowdown On Lectins” on Mark’s Daily Apple [online]. Available via http://www.marksdailyapple.com/lectins/#axzz2847nfRlw; accessed on 1 October 2012.
  7. Natural Therapy Pages (2008) “Lectins” on ntpages.com [online]. Available via http://www.naturaltherapypages.com.au/article/Lectins; accessed on 2 October 2012.
  8. Jordinson, M., El-Hariry, I., Calnan, D., Calam, J. and Pignatelli, M. (1999) “Vicia faba agglutinin, the lectin present in broad beans, stimulates differentiation of undifferentiated colon cancer cells” in Gut [online]. Available via http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1727505/pdf/v044p00709.pdf; accessed on 2 October 2012.


  1. Hi,

    I love your blog, your food looks amazing! I live in Perth as well and have started eating mostly raw food. I had a quick question…do you know where Dinosaur Kale can be bought here? Your food looks delicious, keep up the good work šŸ™‚


  2. >Lucie – New season beans are fabulous!

    >Caz – Thank you so much for your question (and your lovely feedback!). You will often find dinosaur kale (aka “cavolo nero”, “black kale”, “Tuscan kale”, “black cabbage”) at organic fruit & veg stalls at weekend markets (eg. Subi Farmers’ Market, Poynter Farmers’ Market, Claremont, Clontarf, and many more) and at organic stores (try Organic on Charles, Peaches, Absolutely Organic or Manna Wholefoods for starters). Good luck!

    H šŸ™‚


    • Thanks for your comment, Anna.

      To cook the beans, all you need to do is lightly steam them, or toss them through a dish that has just finished cooking.

      You will find an alternative recipe on the Coquinaria link in my post and, although I haven’t tried it, it does look delicious!

      H šŸ™‚


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s