The fava bean, also known as the broad bean, is a large, green leguminous vegetable believed to have a long history of cultivation in Old World agriculture. Because fava beans are good at fixing nitrogen in the soil, farmers often use them as a cover crop (a crop planted to replenish soil nutrients, increase fertility, and manage pests and weeds) to rotate in between plantings of other crops, particularly during the winter.
Fava beans are available both fresh and dried. When buying fresh, seek out young, tender fava beans with bright green pods in the springtime. The beans must first be shucked to remove their thick pods, then blanched to peel the tough skins surrounding each individual bean. Favas bring a rich texture and flavor to dips, salads, and soups.