Fava Beans (also known as broad beans) are such a rad crop! They’re nitrogen-fixers, meaning they actually improve soil quality by adding nitrogen to it, rather than taking away from it. Bees also love the flowers! When the plants are harvested, cut them at the soil line and leave those roots in place. Fava beans are also easy to grow; learn how to here! These attributes alone make them an awesome cover crop or addition to any garden. But these lovely things are not what today’s post is about.
Did you know that the entire fava bean plant is edible?
Yep, you read that right! While favas are most commonly grown for their edible beans, or to enrich soil, why not make good use of the tasty foliage too? Fava bean leaves taste very similar to the bean: sweet, buttery, and earthy. They are rich in vitamins and minerals like folate, manganese, copper and phosphorus.
How do I use fava bean greens, you ask? Enjoy them raw, cooked, or…. turned into delicious, rich, creamy fava beans greens pesto!
Fresh fava bean leaves: When selecting fava greens, choose the young, tender leaves that are in the middle and top of the plant. As they age, they’ll become more tough and less sweet. Grow your own, or check around to see if they’re available at your local farmer’s market! Keep in mind they’re usually a cool-season crop.
To prepare them for pesto, wash the leaves and pluck them off the tough lower portion of the stalk. You want to end up with mostly leaves, though we left the very tips of the stem in place – they were super tender. It’s okay to leave some flowers in there too! Harvesting and the prepped leaves are shown below.
Basil (Optional!) – We just so happened to have pruned our young basil seedlings the same day we made this pesto, so we threw a little in…. only 1 part basil to 4 parts fava bean leaves was used. Basil is definitely not necessary to make this recipe delicious!
Lemon juice – Fresh-squeezed is best. Meyer lemons are even better, as they add a touch of sweetness!
Parmesan cheese – For a vegan variation, you could hold the cheese or substitute with nutritional yeast instead. See amounts below.
Extra virgin olive oil
In a blender or food processor, combine the ingredients listed below, which makes one pint of finished fava pesto.
For every packed 2 cups greens (fava leaves and/or basil combined) add:
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (if you prefer to say “no” to cheese, either omit it completely, or substitute with 1 tbsp nutritional yeast and/or a handful of raw cashews)
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil*
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice*
- 2 or 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Blend until smooth.
*Note that I included a sliding scale for the amount of olive oil and lemon juice. I generally start on the lower end, adding more while blending until the desired consistency is reached. The amount may also vary depending on how tightly you packed your cups of greens.
We often make a double batch, or more! Scale up all of the ingredients as needed. For example, 4 cups of fava beans greens and 1 cup of basil was used to make the batch shown in these photos – with appropriately increased amounts of everything else to match. In a 64-oz Vitamix, we can easily fill it with a double batch in one round of blending. The result was just over two pints.
Storage & Use
Our freezer is always stocked with homemade garden pesto! It is easy and safe to freeze excess pesto in wide-mouth mason jars. When we make a batch, we generally keep out a small portion and freeze the rest. This fava bean greens pesto will last for about a week in the refrigerator, and a year in the freezer! The addition of lemon is a great natural preservative, and also helps it maintain a beautiful bright green color.
When freezing, we’ve found the half-pint size portions are perfect for our little family of two (humans). Make sure to use jars labelled “freezer safe”. Other types can crack, especially those with shoulders. Add pesto into the jars up to their “fill line”, leaving about half an inch of room on top. Throw on a lid, freeze, done! To defrost, we simply pull a jar out a day or two before we want to use it and pop it in the fridge. Use within one week of defrosting.
Our favorite way to use fava bean greens pesto is much like any other pesto: with eggs, pasta, pizza, sautéed mixed veggies, or on homemade sourdough bread. The options are endless!
Fava Bean Greens Pesto
- Blender, or food processor
- 2 cups Fava bean leaves
- 1/2 cup Grated parmesan cheese (Vegan variation: substitute with 1 tbsp nutritional yeast and/or a handful of raw cashews)
- 1/2 cup Walnuts (Nut allergies? Substitute with 1/4 cup hemp seeds or sunflower seeds)
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup Olive oil*
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup Lemon juice*
- 2 – 3 cloves Garlic
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- Wash fava bean greens (and basil, if used) and remove leaves from tough stems.
- In a blender or food processor, combine the listed ingredients listed.
- *Start with 1/3 cup each of lemon juice and olive oil, and add more as needed to reach your desired consistency.
- Blend until smooth.
- Enjoy! Store in the refrigerator, and use within one week.
- Add to freezer-safe wide-mouth jars if you intend to preserve it.
So simple, right?! Let’s not forget, nutritious and delicious too.
I hope you enjoy this fava bean pesto recipe! If you make it, please report back and let us know how you like it. Not growing fava beans yet? Maybe you’ll feel more inclined to, now that you know just how awesome and versatile they really are!
Stay tuned for many more quick and easy recipes to use and preserve garden harvests, or produce you pick up at the farmer’s market! As always, feel free to ask questions ~ and spread the love by passing it on.