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Broad in name and broad in usage, Justyn McGrigor introduces a vegetable with ‘no waste’ credentials, encouraging chefs to use every last bit.

The broadbean is the same species as a faba bean and is one of the world’s oldest cultivated vegetables, growing wherever humans settled and the conditions were favourable.

Broadbeans became domesticated in the Near East in about 3,000BC, although the sage Greek philosopher Pythagoras supposedly forbade the eating of broadbeans because they contained the souls of the dead*. Morbid warning aside, broadbeans have been embraced as a food source for years, especially by the Middle Eastern, African and European cultures that have all cultivated this nutritious bean.

Also known as fava beans, field beans, bell beans and tic beans, broadbeans are one of the natural world’s all ‘rounders, offering a lot of something for everyone! The brilliance of this product is nothing need be wasted; it’s the ‘full service’ provider and is edible from top-to-bottom, offering fabulous flowers, sweet tips and also the fully edible bean. Yes, even the outer shell is edible!

Let’s start with the flowers. Small but striking, broadbean plant flowers have white petals (the most common) or they can also be a violet/crimson colour (these are much harder to find). All of the flowers are distinguishable by a black ‘finger mark’ on each petal. Used as a garnish or decoration, the flowers have a light fragrance and fairly simple flavour.

Moving on to the tips: they are generally picked from the plant by hand and taste similar to sweet spinach when cooked. The tips can be eaten raw or cooked, the latter best achieved by steaming so the sweet flavour can stand out. When raw, the tips make a good addition to a salad.

If you are not a fan of peeling and podding, take heart – the whole pod is edible if you get them young when the outer pod is juicy and the beans inside are small and tender. They are particularly nice this way (raw) as it is a flavoursome product with the added bonus of delivering a high nutritional content.

Most often however, the beans are left to mature more fully in the pod. The mature, larger beans are removed from the outer pod, dried, then consumed as a pulse, most often in soups, casseroles, pies or similar. The Italians add them to minestrone or risotto, serve them with pasta or lightly sautée them with garlic – Italians really are the masters of simply stunning produce. In Asia, broadbeans are also roasted and eaten as a snack, while the French used them in the original cassoulet before the haricot came to town.

Like many beans, the broadbean is a good source of carbohydrate, delivering it with protein but less fat than comparable options# - a winning combination and another reason to make broadbeans your pulse of choice!

Broadbeans grow across much of Australia and are available from March through to October. Like most fresh produce, the price varies depending on the season, ranging from around $6 per kg in peak season up to $16 per kg when the broadbeans are scarce.

Food waste is one of the big issues in food right now and with its ‘no waste’ credentials, the broadbean really ought to be coming right back into focus.

* http://www.countrylife.co.uk/gardens/gardens-gardening/history-of-broad-beans-50316

# http://nutrition.healthgrove.com/l/16906/USDA-Broad-Beans


Justyn McGrigor operates top supplier Murdoch Produce. Contact him on ?02 8543 9999 or visit the website.