Su Lum: Slumming
September 16, 2008
I started to calculate how much, per bean, my crop of fava beans ended up costing, but quickly decided that was a road best not taken. Some things are better off unscrutinized, as I found when I figured out, back in the late ’60s, that keeping my horse in Aspen was costing the equivalent of $50 per hour to ride ” and this for a horse who was so terrified of bridges she would seize up at the sound of water, knowing there must be a bridge nearby.
Fava beans are the closest thing to Fordhook lima beans (my favorite) that can mature in this climate, and this is the second year I’ve tried to grow them. By “I,” I mean my friend Hilary, who digs up my little railroad tie garden, plants the seeds, composts, puts up the climbing fences and pulls up the weeds, tasks beyond the limitations imposed by my herniated discs and other back-related unpleasantnesses.
This year “we” planted fava beans in two large pots at the front of the house and a long row of favas in the garden along with four different kinds of peas, a few bushes of string beans and a dash of butternut lettuce and Swiss chard. The latter two were an afterthought ” my theory is to concentrate on vegetables not readily available at the farmer’s market. Zucchini is, of course, out of the question.
My friend Jack installed an electric timer to water the garden, which no doubt raised both those utility bills but was a godsend for this absent-minded gardener.
The string beans, which are usually prolific, were pathetic. The lettuce tasted like bitter vetch, and the chard and potted favas took a serious beating in our massive midsummer hail storm, in the end producing a grand total of 10 pods, enough for a meager serving.
The favas in the main garden fared better, yielding some 50 pods (three or four hearty servings). By and large I have a generous nature, but I would have taken a shotgun to anyone stealing my precious fava beans.
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A problem with fava beans and peas is the bulk of their pods. This June I bought a box of peas at the Farmer’s Market, already past their prime and, after hours of shelling, ended up with a quart and a half of frozen peas and a box of empty pods.
“More PEAS?” said Hilary when we were mapping out the garden. “You can’t have too many peas,” I said and, sure enough, we’re looking down the barrel of winter and there haven’t been enough peas to invite guests to dinner much less freeze any of them.
The sugar snap peas, usually reliable and excellent either raw or slightly boiled (but impossible to freeze successfully) were a disaster, perhaps because they were planted in the shadow of my aggressive raspberry bush, much to the disappointment of the dachshunds who are partial to sugar snaps. I resorted to buying gourmet packets of sugar snap peas at the grocery stores to keep them from hounding us for the other peas in the garden.
The big fake was the Mr. Big peas, with six-inch long pods that appeared to be bursting, only to open the pods and find little green BB-sized peas. Little Marvel lived up to its name as far as “Little,” went ” little pods, few peas inside ” but not the “Marvel” part.
The surprise winner of the pea selection was the Green Arrow, modest-sized pods that were packed tight with the sweetest peas you’ve ever tasted, and not nearly enough of them in their five-foot row. Next time.
Su Lum is a longtime local who reminds you that the best way to cook fresh corn (which is not great this year) is to microwave it in the husk for four minutes. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.