My first taste of fava leaves, or tips as they are also called, was about five years ago, when a woman I worked with at the time shared some from her garden. Through the generosity of one or two other kind gardeners, I have munched on them once or twice since then, but haven't had the opportunity to eat any from my own garden until now. I'm growing favas for the first time this year, and although my primary goal is a bean harvest, I wanted to sample some leaves in the meantime. If you've never had fava tips before, they are similar to pea shoots: tender with a fresh leguminous taste.
The plants are just beginning to set their flowers, so in the interest of not disturbing them too much, I only harvested a few leaves. They made perfectly bite-sized rolls for snacking, filled with nut cheese and various other little treats such as cherry tomatoes, kalamatas, and shallot scapes. The rolls with olive and scapes were especially tasty.
If you have access to fava leaves, don't let this seasonal treat pass you by. The leaves are perfect for salads; eat them raw to best capture the fresh flavor. I've also seen recipes for them in pesto, wilted salads, or stir fry...in much the same way you might use spinach greens or pea shoots.
The nut cheese filling is adapted from a recipe for lemon-pignoli "ricotta", which I use all the time. It is perfect for lasagne or any time you want a ricotta-like filling.
Walnut-pignoli filling (~ 1/2 cup):
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/2 cup raw pine nuts
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Soak the walnuts and pine nuts in water for an hour (or more if you want), strain off the water and blend with the rest of ingredients. You may want to add a little water to adjust the consistency.
All in all, favas seem to be a pretty easy-going plant. In my garden, they are in part shade, and even so, have been growing at a rate of at least 2-3 inches a week. The soil is not particularly rich either; the bed they're in is native soil, which tends to be clay, acidic, and not terribly nutritious. Amending with compost and growing the odd cover crop, I've been able to improve the soil quality of this bed somewhat: it started out as predominantly clay, but now is more of a clay-loam.
All going well, I'm expecting a bean harvest in mid- to late-June. After, (hopefully) harvesting the beans, I'll cut down the stalks and turn them into the soil as green manure.
FAVA UPDATE: Some of the first flowers opened this afternoon. They look like bumble bees: