Fresh broad beans are sweet and delicious pod beans with a smooth creamy texture. They only have a short natural season during the summer, so are often dried, canned or frozen to preserve them. Fresh beans are more popular than the dried variety, which tend to be quite floury. Young thin beans are eaten pods and all, but larger, older broad beans need to have the tough pods removed. Broad beans are also called fava beans, particularly in the US.
Broad beans are at their best from the end of May through to mid-July, when the pods are pale green and soft and the beans are still small.
Only brief steaming or cooking is required when broad beans are in their prime but, as the season progresses, the pods get bigger and tougher and then the beans are encased in a thick outer skin. The unappetising skins need to be removed and the beans should go into the pot straightaway. Once cooked, add a little butter and sprinkle with chopped summer savory or tarragon and serve as an accompaniment to roast lamb or a barbecued fish fillet. Give them an Italian twist by mashing freshly boiled broad beans with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and piling the verdant mash onto bruschetta for an easy summery nibble. They are also good for flavouring meat stews or lamb dishes. Egyptian ful medames is a dish of cooked broad beans (a small dried variety called ‘ful’) flavoured with garlic and lemon.