05 April 2008

Planting fava beans and roquette

Ahhh! The first beautiful spring day and the neighborhood was alive with kids and sunlight and seeing people without winter coats and my little garden bed by the side door gets beautiful sunlight and although the north side of my house still has a foot of snow, I was able to plant roquette and fava beans today. The roquette and fava beans are both from seeds I purchased at Vilmorin Seed Co. in Paris in 2002. Roquette (Eruca sativa) is also known as arugula; it's in the brassica family. The variety of the fava bean (Vicia faba) I planted today is "DeSeville." It a large-seeded fava and, like all favas, does best in cool weather. I put them in the ground as soon as I can because they don't flower in the heat. Favas are great beans to eat, and I'm surprised more Americans don't eat them. I see dry favas, usually small-seeded varieties, in Mediterranean stores, and I see fresh pods in markets on the west coast and in markets in Italian neighborhoods. In Europe, these are the beans people ate before Columbus and other early explorers brought back beans from North America, Phaseolus vulgaris, known as the common bean. So, when you think of 'haricots verts' as the essential French green bean or you think the Romano is the traditional Italian bean - think again. Long before Europeans ate these beans that are now part of their history and culture, they were eating fava beans.

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