When fava beans are mentioned, so many things come to mind since we have grown up with this bean. It is part of our lives in so many ways yet, surprisingly it is not native to our mountains and valleys. The Spanish brought this plant, known as vicia faba in Latin, haba in Spanish, and broad beans or fava beans in English. Yet it has become as Peruvian as our corn.
It is a plant that grows upright with bright green leaves and white flowers that have a black or purple point. People plant it in hills just like potatoes, peas, and so on. It can grow one and a half meters tall and can produce a lot of beans, so many that sometimes the stem bend over with their weight. Green habas fill the market in February, March, April, and May.
Fava beans come in a pod and then the individual beans, which are large, have their own shell. They are kind of like us when it is chilly in Cuzco. They come in a coat and then wear a shirt underneath. Fiest you peel away the pod; it is quite spongy. Then you have to peel each individual bean until they stand naked and ready to use.
The haba is green, although some are whitish or yellowish. They come in different sizes and shapes. It has a sweetish taste though it leaves the mouth rough when you eat it uncooked.
When you go to the market to buy habas they offer them to you in the following ways: green, peeled, dried, and in flour. Each has a different use in our gastronomy. Green broad beans are the cheapest. You buy them in piles. They are good for making soups, such as our chairo, or for making a capchi. You just have to peel them.
The peeled habas are bought ready for use. You just add them to your pots.
The dried fava beans have been removed from the pod but not peeled the second time. They have dried in the sun and are ready to be toasted or ground into flour. You can prepare them by toasting them or by soaking them. There are many ways to use them.
Habas go into the famous seven flours. We eat them toasted as a snack, or then soaked and cooked as part of a meal. They can be made into habitas broster and the green habas are cooked in our huatias.
When I was young my mother would toast the fava beans. My brothers and sister and I would peel them. All the peeled broad beans we would put on a plate so they could be ground. We would take turns. One would grind them and the other would put them in place to be ground.
With the flour my mother would make a ponche de habas, a hot drink we call punch, which with bread we would have many afternoons. She also would make a tea from the shells of the beans to help us survive the colds of the rainy season.
We would also toast the broad bean flour in a frying pan. Before it was ready we would make paper cones from newspaper. In them we would put the toasted flour with a little bit of sugar. We loved to eat it carefully, little by little.
The haba really is Cuzqueño. You can find it in any of our markets. With them you can make so many of our delicious foods, such as broad bean capchi, huatia, chairo, and many soups and traditional main courses of Cuzco.