Saturday, May 18, 2013

Your Garden's Most Delicious Cover Crop

Cover crops are "green manure" that help manage soil fertility. Though there are many other benefits (and types) basically these members of the pea family return nitrogen to the soil and by containing erosion and controlling water usage prepare the soil for your next crop.
The greens from cover crops can be cut into the soil for extra nutrients and many are excellent animal feed treats. Every year I plant a hefty crop of bright green fava beans, the darlings of Mediterranean style spring salads, fresh crostini and pastas.
Now in my little raised bed with heavily amended soil I can't say I really need a cover crop. My beds could sit idle through the winter waiting for spring's frost date and my hearty summer tomato crop. But, I love fava beans. 
 I just don't love the work that comes with them. Favas have a thick foamy substance that makes the beans a challenge to grab and each bean has a thick skin that interferes with the bright delicious taste. I've read over and over again that young beans can be eaten unpeeled but I have never met a fava that did not benefit from this second skinning. From that sizable harvest pictured above after shelling the pods and then blanching and peeling each of the individual beans we were left with but a small sampling of our spring treat -- and pretty cramped hands.
The fruits of our labors. A piquant, hearty Peposo -- Tuscan beef stew slow-cooked in red wine and lots of black pepper topped with a bright salad garnish of fresh peas, arugula, and our home grown favas.

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