Sunday, January 6, is Epiphany, commemorating the day on which Jesus met the Three Kings, considered the official end of the Christmas season.
Fava beans historically had a role in the Gateau de Roi, or King’s cake, traditionally served from Epiphany Eve to Mardi Gras, carnival season. Each cake contained a dried bean, the legend being that whoever got the piece with the hidden fava would be blessed with good luck, that this person must buy the cake next year.
Today, the bean is usually replaced with a ceramic baby, so this more likely translates to good luck to the recipient’s dentist. The cake itself, thought to have been introduced to New Orleans from France in 1870, is wildly popular in New Orleans, garishly decorated in purple and gold.
But, we digress from these delicious legumes.
There’s more to them than being a favorite of Hannibal Lecter.
One of the oldest food crops in the Old World, fava beans are a major crop and culinary favorite in Morocco, where myMEGusta recently visited. Available fresh in the markets, they are most frequently enjoyed from the dried form, made into dips and soups.
On a visit to the Fez Medina, we had one of the trip’s culinary highlights, a steaming fava bean soup garnished with garlicky olive oil, made in a stand that has been run by a family for generations.
One beautiful sight in Morocco was the acres and acres of olive tree plantations, many with fava bean plantings among the trees, laden with fruit in December.
Also known as broad beans, favas were the type of bean used throughout the Old World before explorers brought pea beans, cannellini beans and all the rest back from the Americas. Yes, even cassoulet!
Fresh fava beans can occasionally be found in supermarkets, and are something to look forward when spring arrives.