IN THE BEGINNING, ALL THOSE YEARS AGO, IT WAS NOTHING MORE THAN AN IMPULSE, a plain urge to dig a hole and plant a seed. So many shovelfuls later, I’ve come to view gardening as an intricate weaving of bodily exertion, mindful intent and spiritual humility. Every time I inject myself into the natural scheme of things and add a plant, or take one out (some people call that weeding) I feel the delicate balance of desire and acceptance, control and yielding. Sometimes, like when planting a young tree, I see my little acts as faith filled investments, gifts to the future, wagers that I might leave something behind for those that come after me. Having lived much of life and tended several gardens, I understand that each effort is a venture into the unknown. Yet still I till my soil.
In the end, gardening requires of me a belief in tomorrow and hope that the sun will shine, the rain will fall softly and that, with good grace, I’ll be here to reap some of the pleasure. It also involves an optimism and perseverance, to begin, then begin again.
“It’s all an experiment,” my friend likes to say of her vegetable garden. And that is where, of course, the difference lies between gardening and farming. Farmers, who must earn a living, and feed their families, need to minimize risk and experimentation. However, I’ve heard many gardeners comment that they just throw something into the ground and watch what happens. As attached as we all are to our Martha Gonzales roses or our baby peaches, or whatever it is, there is a certain detachment necessary for the long haul in gardening.
So it was with hope and faith and tempered ambition that I planted my fava beans, way back in October. When I looked at the seed packet it said that favas are grown for the beans but also to improve the soil. Okay, I thought, if there are no beans, then at least I’ve done something good for the next crop. But the seedlings popped right up and the stalks grew tall, putting out the most beautiful flowers that I shared pictures of here back in the winter. As soon as those pretty white blooms began to pop, though, the cold weather came. I made a half-hearted attempted to protect them from the frost, but many mornings I would look out and see the plants drooping. After a day of sunshine, though, they would always rise triumphant, and looked good as new. This roller coaster of fortune continued through what turned our to be a long cold winter by Texas standards.
Now, in early May, and I finally have beans. It’s been a small crop that has come in little batches, and I have mixed feelings about this experiment. As far as favas are concerned, I think I’ll either change my planting season, or just throw in the trowel, go to my local middle eastern market and buy them frozen.
Fava Bean Dip
Boil about 1 cup of fresh or frozen favas for five minutes. While favas are boiling, mince one large clove of garlic and place in a bowl large enough to hold the favas. Drain and place warm beans over the minced garlic. Add 1 teaspoon of chopped herbs. I used mint and marjoram. But use whatever sounds good to you, or add more if you like. Add about 1/4 cup of good quality olive oil and mash the mixture, adding more olive oil as needed to produce a creamy yet, somewhat chunky, consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fava beans, though, love pepper, so I went heavy on it.
Serve on bread or crackers topped with a shaving of sharp cheese such as parmesan or manchego.
One thing to note about fresh favas: There are two hulls that must be removed. The outer pod, then a thin skin that is on each bean.