It’s finally the part of summer that a lot of chef’s look forward to, fava bean season. It is commonly used around the world during the summer in many culinary recipes. Although it is most notably known for its medicinal and culinary properties, it can be dangerous to ones health, especially children. Are you feeding your children a poison?
Fava Beans, otherwise known as broad beans, horse bean, tic bean and field bean is native to North Africa and Southwest Asia. Due to its popularity, it is now grown extensively around North America also. If you are unsure of this bean, look for something that looks similar to a pea pod but ten times larger in size. It is like a pea pod on steroids.
These popular Old World beans are best known for its strong flavor unlike peas that are rather neutral tasting. Since it has a strong taste many Mediterranean, Chinese, Indian, Italian and other countries like it use these fava beans for flavor and texture. These beans are usually picked off the plants in late summer while they are still young and tender. They will continue to produce until late autumn. Just like pea pods, the fava beans needed to be de-shelled, cooked and then peeled. It is a long task however very rewarding to those whom can wait. One of my favorite things to do with fava beans is to mash them with olive oil and a little salt and put the spread on baguette bread as a snack.
Although these fava beans have been eaten in China and in the Mediterranean cuisines, these fava beans have been tested to have some undesirable results. Throughout the past years, scientists have been prescribing this bean for the cure of Parkinson’s diseaseand as an alternative to Viagra usage. Unfortunately, since more families have brought these beans into the household, a new rare disease has come into the science vocabulary that many people are unaware of “favism”.
Favism is a rare disease that reacts in the “Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency”, basically the x-link of inheritance. Mainly males have a reaction, since they contain the x-link pattern however females are affected also. This reaction is caused by smelling the pollen of the plant or eating the beans (even cooked). Although the risk is small, it is very dangerous to serve to children.
Cases are arising around the world, mostly those with any amount of Mediterranean descent, of those having a reaction to the consumption of fava beans. A few years ago I heard a story about two parents, both being medical physicians that had two young boys, about two years apart in age. A few hours after eating dinner one night, the oldest son started to have a drastic change in his body temperature, diarrhea and had started to vomit. The parents knew something was wrong however the symptoms were unlike anything they had seen. So, like good parents, they took the young boy to the emergency room to see what was going on. During the drive, he became to look like he had symptoms of jaundice (turned yellow). After getting a blood test to see what was wrong, the boy’s blood count was very low, especially for a healthy boy. Then, the mother-in-law called the parents at the hospital stating that the other son was having the same signs. The quick doctor asked if the parents had eaten fava beans for dinner, which the parents had in fact done.
Even though these two parents were doctors, they were not familiar with this very rare disease called favism. It is important that all parents watch children closely after eating fava beans for the first time. If these two parents did not watch the children closely, the two boys could have died that night. Even though this is a rare disease, it is important that everyone is aware of the symptoms and is fully aware since it can happen to children and adults.