Broad, more commonly known as the fava bean, is the oldest bean known to modern man, dating back to the Stone Age. The name comes from its large, flat, kidney-shaped seeds. The seeds have a tough outer skin and many people make the mistake of boiling the beans until these skins soften. This makes the bean mushy and ruins the flavor. Instead, a quick boil, peel of the outer skin followed by another light boil yields a delicious, sweet reward.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove the beans from their pods. Clean pods first, and then snap off the skinny end so that the seam pulls off with the tip, opening the pod.
Parboil the unshelled beans in the boiling water for 60 to 90 seconds or until they are bright green. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water to stop the beans from cooking.
Shell the beans by splitting one end of the outer skin with a knife and pop the bean out by putting pressure on the closed end.
Bring another pot of water to boil. Add the beans to the boiling water. Salt water if desired.
Boil the beans for three to five minutes. The time depends on the recipe so taste for texture after three minutes. Shorter cooking times will yield beans that are firm and good for salads or pasta dishes. A longer cooking time makes the beans good for mashing into dips or spreads.
Drain the cooked beans and rinse with cold water. They are now ready for use. If you're adding the beans to a hot dish, toss them into the fully-cooked dish to prevent overcooking.
Purchase fresh broad beans with bright green pods (eight to nine inches in length) that are firm to the touch. The pods that are soft, brown or dry and wrinkly-looking will be starchy and unpleasant tasting.
Fava beans quickly lose flavor, so buy them fresh and eat within a week. Store them in your refrigerator in a plastic bag. Freeze any broad beans that have not been eaten within five to seven days. To do this, shell them and then freeze on a flat tray. Once completely frozen, the fava beans can be transferred to a freezer-safe container or bag.