Baby fava beans are picked before ripening, when they are still very small. They are encased in a pale green skin. They have a more tender texture than larger fava beans and their flavor is a little more sour. They can be eaten both raw or cooked.
Fresh baby fava (broad) beans should be sold inside tightly closed pods that are firm and free of blemishes.
Before eating, baby fava beans need to be shelled, like peas. The smaller beans (less than 2 cm) are eaten as they are; unlike with fully ripened fava beans, there is no need to peel them. If they are a little larger, then it is a good idea to remove their outer skin.
Because they are smaller than ripe fava beans, baby fava beans require a shorter cooking time: Two minutes in boiling salted water is enough. They can also be braised with other vegetables.
Baby fava beans can be eaten raw, simply seasoned with salt and maybe a little butter. In this case, choose the smallest ones, otherwise they will have to be peeled. Cooked baby fava beans can be used in salads, soups, purees, as an ingredient of braised spring vegetables, or to accompany a white meat. Their pods, which are also tender, can be used to make soup.
Fresh baby fava beans can stored for up to 48 hours in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator. To store for longer, they can be shelled and frozen. They have to be spread out over a tray and frozen before being gathered together in a freezer bag.
Baby fava beans are high in dietary fiber that is easier to digest than that of ripe fava beans. They contain protein, vitamins (particularly the B group), carotenes, and minerals.