Anyone who knows me or who spends much time with me this summer has to hear about the continuing progress of my tiny vegetable garden. I kid you not…my delight and never ending fascination with this small plot is more keen than the most elaborate, coifed, and highly designed perennial border out there. Good food, fresh food and organic food are very, very high on my list of simple pleasures and everyday luxuries. And it doesn’t get more local, organic or fresh than my own backyard!
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my current obsession as I weed the chard, pick snap peas and cut greens for yet another giant salad. We all know gardening is a lot of work, physically demanding and not without a degree of pain and yes, suffering. Good healthy food is just the balm our bodies need to replenish our energy, reignite our spirits and cultivate the marvel of a productive earth. I must have checked every 15 minutes to see if my runner beans were up once I planted them at the base of their tee pees – I swear, I was just like a second grader!
I never stop learning in the garden and sometimes the harshest seasons are the best teachers. I continue to fuss over the tomatoes as I string their wandering vines up the strings. “Do you think they look a little wan?” Have a sip of kelp and a nice tidy blanket of comfrey leaves. I was excited to find out that this herbal pest is actually very rich in nutrients – it’s NPK analysis is something like 8 – 3 – 20 (!!!) I guess that enormous, tenacious taproot is actually mining the subsoil for potassium and storing it in the plant’s tissues.
NOTE: comfrey is almost impossible to eradicate once it’s taken hold in the garden and due to it’s pyrolizzidine content – a mild toxin – the official recommendation is that comfrey not be ingested in any way shape or form. Do NOT plant this pest. But, if like me you already have… Fresh chopped comfrey leaves are higher in nitrogen than barnyard manure – I don’t know about you but I’m looking at my here-to-fore cursed patch of comfrey with a new glint in my eye! Besides, I don’t really want the responsibility of barnyard animals.
In a wonderful turn of circumstances, part Universal kismet, part hard work and wordworking (I’d like to think), when I’m not in the vegetable garden this summer I find myself in the midst of a 2 book contract with Sasquatch Books!!! My topics? Growing food, harvesting food, preserving food and celebrating all that is good and choice in the process. I’m trying to “cultivate” my professional gene (read: self promotion) so I’ll write a separate post formally introducing my new projects but I just couldn’t resist indulging in vegetable heaven and celebrating the first FAVA BEAN harvest of the season!!! I’ve got my priorities and like I said… Hey, a gal’s gotta eat!
Lorene’s favorite fava bean pastamodified from a recipe in unplugged kitchen a return to the simple, authentic joys of cooking by Viana La Place, 1996, William Morrow and Company, Inc
2 cups shelled, blanched fava beans (* see below)
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
Bacon (of course)
Salt & pepper
1/2 pound dried penne or corkscrew pasta
*Fresh fava beans have got to be THE MOST laborious fresh vegetable to prepare. For people new to their preparation, a brief primer… Each pound of pods will yield about a cup or so of prepared beans. Slice each pod with a small paring knife along the “seam” and remove each plump, flat bean from the cottony pods. With any luck you will also score the beans on the inside of the pod and ease an upcoming step. Put a pot of salted water on to boil and add about 1/4 minced fresh mint along with the shelled beans. Boil the beans until tender; their seed coats will turn a silvery green. Drain the now cooked beans and allow to cool until you can handle them. Each bean must now be separated from its tough, sometimes bitter outer shell. If the bean was indeed scored when you split the pods with the knife, a quick pinch with your thumb and forefinger will pop the now tender morsel from its skin. Otherwise use a knife to free the bean. There…now you can proceed with the recipe – see I told you this was laborious!
- Cut bacon into a small dice and cook until crisp in a large flat saute pan with a little olive oil. Add sweet onion and garlic to the pan and cook until tender. Deglaze the pan with white wine and water to get all the good browned bits worked into a flavorful sauce. Add prepared fava beans to the pan along with the chopped fresh marjoram and parsley. Salt and pepper to taste and allow the flavors to blend for about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, boil pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain thoroughly and add finished pasta to the fava bean sauce. I like to retain 1/2 cup or so of the pasta cooking water to add to the finished dish to bring the whole thing to the saucy consistency I’m after.
- Serve with parmesan cheese if desired and give thanks for fava bean season.