All about the Fava

One of the most interesting items found on the St. Joseph’s Altar is the fava bean. Some believe that the pantry that contains a fava bean will never be bare. The fava, or lucky bean, serves as a token of the Altar – a reminder of God’s provisions through the intercession of St. Joseph.

Fava bean (vicia fava) may be served in a frittata or in garlic sauce. When dried, roasted and blessed, it becomes the very popular “lucky bean.” Legend has it that you will never be broke as long as you carry one. Some people believe that if you keep one in the pantry, there will always be food in the kitchen. The legend of the fava bean began during the famine in Sicily, where the bean was used as fodder for cattle. To survive, the farmers prepared them for the table. Hence, they considered themselves lucky to have them. The bean is also a symbol of fertility, since it grows well even in poor, rocky soil. Italians would carry a bean from a good crop to ensure a good crop the following year. The blessed dried beans are distributed at altars along with pieces of blessed bread

Excerpted from Viva San Giuseppe, A Guide for Saint Joseph Altars published by the St. Joseph Guild, New Orleans, Louisiana 1985 — out of print

The fava bean, often referred to as an “Old World” bean, is one of the oldest domesticated food legumes. It is thought that the beanstalk in “Jack and the Beanstalk” was probably a fava plant. I recently received a question about green verses brown fava beans. Vicia faba come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. You’ll find them in brown, light tan, green, and even purple. The favas that are usually used on St. Joseph Altars are dark brown or beige. This is the natural color of the dried fava. 

Fava Beans Recipe:

1 lb. fava beans
1 bunch green onions
1 medium onion
4 toes garlic
3 bay leaves
chopped parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook dried fava beans in boiling water until tender, adding more water as needed. Saute seasonings in olive oil till tender, add to beans. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot in soup bowl as consistency is a bit soupy.

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