Monday, January 14, 2008

Go Go Gadget Problem-Solver

Problem Number 1:
My fava beans are blooming away, sweet as sweet peas, but they just haven't been setting fruit. Why grow fava beans if you're not going to get fava beans?

I've read that favas can be attacked mercilessly by blackfly, but so far I have had no bug problems. My plants have been healthy, apparently happy with plenty of rain and good soil, but in no hurry to reproduce. Frustrated by my lack of beans, I turned to a local authority, Pat Welsh, in her book, Southern California Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide. Here is what she had to say:
In some climate zones fava beans will bear crops without the aide of the gardener, but for a variety of reasons (including too much shade, water, or fertilizer) they may bear flowers but no beans. If that happens, pinch off the growing tips of the stems. [. . .] Withing a week of pinching, the favas will start to bear beans. Wait until the pods are between 5 and 8 inches long and filled with beans before you begin to harvest. (The tips of the stem you pinched off are very good to eat; steam or stir-fry them.) (60).
The greens are edible? Another food that I haven't ever eaten? I had to try out this tip. So, the next day at the veggie plot I pulled out my garden scissors and snipped off the very tip of a few of the stalks that were already blooming. I made sure to leave four or five flower clusters on each stalk so that there would be flowers left to set fruit.

Two days later, this is what I found:

Yup, my first baby fava bean, and more have come since then. But what is even better than setting beans is the fact that fava bean greens are delicious. They're sweet, a little beany, and have a wonderful, succulent texture. Apparently, there is a reason to grow fava beans, beans or not.

Problem Number 2:

I'm 5'7". My pea towers are 8' tall, and my sugar snap vines have outgrown the towers by at least another foot.

I do not have extendo-arms or superpowers that can teletransport the peas directly into my harvest basket. I can't drag a step ladder into the garden for the soil is too soft. My peas are producing like mad, but if I can't get to them, what good does that do anyone?

If I let the vines grow any taller, I won't be able to get the peas that set on them, so the solution is clearly to not let the vines get any taller.

Gently, I pulled each vine down towards me and I trimmed off the top 6" of each, flower buds and all. I hope that trimming off the growing tops of the vines will encourage growth lower on the vines, thereby leading to peas that are within my reach. What to do with those pea vine tops? Eat them, of course.

Left with a basket of fava bean tops and pea vine trimmings, I hit my kitchen, inspired. Mike had violet-tinged young garlic, a treat I couldn't pass up, at his stand on Saturday, and I knew that would complement the sweet greens beautifully. I added the pungent zing of preserved lemon, and I had a dish that was more than an unexpected solution to my garden problems, it was also mighty-fine eating.

Sautéed Fava Bean and Pea Greens, with Green Garlic and Preserved Lemon

You will need:
A generous handful of 2"-4" fava bean tops
A generous handful of 6" pea vine trimmings
5 green garlic shoots
½ a preserved lemon, flesh discarded and rind sliced into fine slivers
Olive oil
Coarse salt to taste

To make the dish:
Wash and dry the greens and garlic. Cut off the roots from the garlic, cut each garlic shoot into 4" lengths, slice them 4" pieces lengthwise in half, then in quarters. The slender pieces of garlic will curl, imitating the pea vine tendrils.

Place a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat and pour in a generous slick of olive oil. When the oil is hot, toss in the greens and garlic shoots, quickly stirring the greens around the pan so they don't burn. Cook the greens in this manner for 2 minutes or so, or until the greens, even the inner reaches of them, have turned bright green. Toss in the slivered preserved lemon and stir to incorporate the flavorful golden bits throughout the mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt to taste, and serve.

Serves two problem-solving gardeners.

I'm submitting this post to the talented Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook for her event, My Legume Love Affair.


Lucy said...

Where to start?

Senstional, just sensational! I wondered why mine (fava's) were not exactly successful (now I know wht to try next time). I did know that you can eat those pea shoots - I think it was you who pointed it out. This must be a wonderfully fresh, flavourful meal. A true gardener's delight.

Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

If anything, the shoots sound more interesting than the fava beans. Less work, certainly! Once again, thanks for letting me garden vicariously--so much easier this way, Christina.

Susan said...

Don't ever leave So Cal, Christina. I need to garden vicariously through you during winter's dormancy here.

Thank you for a light, wonderful and truly inventive recipe!

Deborah Dowd said...

It is so exciting (and a bit surreal) to read about your garden when here we have 30 degree temps and nothing is growng except windowsill herbs. Your post was a breath of springtime!

Christina said...

Hi Lucy: I hope this trick helps you produce more fava beans, as well as have a tasty side-product. How does your garden grow lately?

Terry B: Oh, you're welcome. I love to think about, plan for, and write about veggie gardening, so I'll happily post about it any time.

Susan: We'll see where my future takes me, but for now, I'm quite happy here. Thank you again for hosting the event.

Deborah Dowd: Welcome to A Thinking Stomach! Southern California offers many wonders, and year-round vegetables is just one of them. I'm glad I could provide a virtual sub-tropical breeze for you.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Wendy said...

Much like the other commenters here, I'm suffering from garden envy right now. That said, even if it were July right now and even if I were an experienced gardener (like yourself) I wonder if I'd ever be as solution focused as you. Very very impressed.
Peashoots are the best.

Lucy said...

Well, ahem, my poor garden...sadly, I returned to not much. Shame really, but it was insanely hot for a few days and I think that was what did most of it in. Still, things like rocket, basil and tomatoes, as well as the purslane that snakes across the pavers have all thrived. I learn a little more each year.

winedeb said...

I am sitting here glued to your photos of your beans! I am thrilled for your garden success! I am on my second round of pole beans as my first set, well, I had to go out of town for 2 weeks and the person watering my garden was not into looking for pests. Long story short, the worms got to enjoy most of my beans. Never fear, second set is up and coming and I am keeping a watchful eye on those babies! If I am successful with these, I might just have to try the fava. I am on a mission right now to learn more about container gardening. If you know of a good resource, let me know. I have been visiting university extension websites the past few days and am starting to get some good info.
Thanks for sharing Christina!

Shannon said...

Hello Christina,

In the last few months, you may remember receiving an email invitation to become a part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher Program. With all the recipe-writing and food photography to be completed, we know emails can easily get lost in the shuffle, so Foodbuzz would like to re-extend our offer of inviting you to be a part of our food blogger network. I would love to send you more details about the program, so if you are interested, please email me at


Shannon Eliot
Editorial Assistant,

Christina said...

Winedeb: I'm sorry to hear about your bean disaster. I bet you're looking forward to this next crop. Fava beans are fun to grow, but they need to stay really cool. Here, it rarely gets over 65 degrees on a winter day, so it suits them just find for growing in the winter. Does it stay that cool where you are? The best resource I know for container vegetable gardening is a book called The Bountiful Container--I really think you'd like it. It's been helpful for me.

Shannon: Wow! I'm so flattered. I don't think I ever got the email you mentioned, but I'll send you an email to learn more about this program.

winedeb said...

Darn, the fava's will not work here, too warm. Oh well, we will see how the pole beans do with supervision . Thanks for the tip on the book! Will check it out!