The fava bean is doubly protected--first in a very large pod with a pillowy lining, then inside a fairly tough casing.
To extract the bean from the casing, blanch the beans in a large pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Transfer the beans to a bowl of cold water to arrest the cooking process. This can be done in batches. Allow the water to come back to a boil before proceeding with the next batch.
On one end of the casing you'll notice a very dark indent. This represents the fava's belly button.
The other end is smooth, with an airfoil shape.
To open the casing, use the tip of a paring knife to make a crescent-shaped incision along the smooth end.
Gently squeeze between thumb and forefinger at the opposite end. The bean should slide out. Older beans are more difficult to remove--another reason to pick the favas at their peak, when the pods are plump and bright green. A dull or browning pod indicates advanced age.
Free of its casing, the fava is ready to finish cooking any way you'd like.
This bowlful of blanched and shelled favas represents our entire harvest from 50 plants. I'm thinking lightly sauteed with onion and a little butter. Or maybe smeared on bruschetta with pecorino cheese....