No. 27: Fava Greens from Tairwa'-Knoll Farms

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CUESA
Fava greens at the Saturday Ferry Plaza market, $6 per pound.
SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

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As the winter rains fade and the sun finally shines on the city's farmers' markets, perhaps the last thing you want to fill your sack with is another mass of leafy greens. After all, the entire winter you've had chard, collards, chard, braising mixes, chard, dandelion greens, chard, and once in a while, a little chard. Spring brings the hope of nubile, tender greens like spinach and pea shoots to the Saturday Ferry Plaza farmers' market. Ready for a little secret? Our favorite spring green isn't a spring green at all. Tairwa'-Knoll Farms' fava greens evoke the brightness and freshness of springtime but have actually been at your fingertips all winter long.

Grower Rick Knoll introduced fava greens to Bay Area chefs more than a dozen years ago. He and his wife, Kristie, spotted favas growing as cover crops on farms in Southern Italy, a practice they copied back home in Brentwood in eastern Contra Costa County. "One day I was walking around the fields and just picked off a leaf and ate it," he says. "I thought, 'Oh my god, this is delicious.'" Paul Bertolli was the first chef to embrace fava greens, back when he was at Oliveto. Since then, Knoll says he's been trying to persuade chefs there and at Chez Panisse, Boulevard, and more recently at Gather, to stop thinking of fava leaves as a spring green and feature them when they're at their lushest, around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This time of year, a pillow-sized one-pound bag will set you back six bucks, and money well spent it is, since the greens are delicious and versatile. The leaves are tender enough to eat raw in salads (without the waxy squeak on the teeth spinach can have), or a quick wilt with some extra-virgin olive oil and green garlic deepens the flavor. Just as pea shoots taste faintly of peas, fava greens have a whisper of the slightly nutty flavor of the bean. Their season is fleeting. Once the weather turns hot, the shoots will be too mature to eat; already in April they're a little past their peak. But consider them an amuse-bouche to a feast: the bounty of fava beans to come.

Tairwa'-Knoll Farms: Ferry Plaza Saturday Farmers' Market, Ferry Building; weekly, starting at 10 a.m.

Dishes in our series so far:

92: Goat tacos from El Norteño
91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu
90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha
89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar
88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline
87: Outerlands' levain bread
86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt
85: Gyro King's spinach pie
84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi
83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu
82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tarts
81: Commonwealth's cured foie gras with umeboshi purée
80: Star Stream's Liège-style waffle
79: Mexican hot chocolate from La Oaxaqueña
78: Meatball sandwich from Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe
77: Cheesecake from Zanze's
76: Chicken pepian at San Miguel
75: Macau iced coffee at Vega/Special Xtra
74: Comstock Saloon's Pisco Punch
73: Hai Ky Mi Gia's duck leg noodle soup
72: Sauerbraten at Walzwerk
71: Boudin noir at Cafe Bastille
70: Blackstrap molasses gingerbread at Lotta's Bakery
69: Plow's crispy potatoes
68: Prospect's Catcher in the Rye
67: Pork banh mi from Little Vietnam Cafe
66: Nakaochi at Ippuku
65: Sidekick's chocolate spritzer
64: Farmhouse Culture's horseradish-leek sauerkraut
63: Destination Baking Co.'s challah
62: Cotogna's roasted carrots
61: Hard Knox Cafe's chicken and waffles
60: The Rebel Within from Tell Tale Preserve Co.
59: The Slanted Door's Whiskey Cocktail
58: Carnitas burrito from Taqueria San Francisco
57: Sakura mochi from Benkyodo
56: Birria at Gallardos
55: BBQ pork skewers at Fil-Am Cuisine
54: JapaCurry's katsu curry
53: Vegan flan at Gracias Madre
52: Cinderella Bakery's pelmeni
51: Locavore's maple andouille sausage
50: Lumpia from Hapa SF
49: Moonlight Brewing's Reality Czeck
48: Filetti pizza at Una Pizza Napoletana
47: Pupusas revueltas at La Santaneca
46: Khoresht ghaymeh at Maykadeh
45: Los Muertos at Gitane
44: Sandwich cookies from Sweet Constructions
43: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company's square
42: Nopalito's quesadilla roja
41: Croissant from Sandbox Bakery
40: Cultured's burdock kasu-zuke pickles
39: Sticky chewy chocolate ice cream at Swensen's
38: Maverick's warm Brussels sprouts with slow-cooked egg
37: Roast chicken from Limón Rotisserie
36: Seven Hills' raviolo uovo
35: Morning bun from Pinkie's Bakery
34: Kaw soi dok at Mandalay
33: Fatted Calf's meatloaf sandwich
32: Duck larb at Thai House Express
31: Lark Creek Steak's burger
30: Barbacco's chicken thighs with olives and almonds
29: Mow Lee's lap cheong
28: Dollar oysters at Bar Crudo

Sean Timberlake is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts. Follow SFoodie on Twitter: @SFoodie, and like us on Facebook.
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