Fava beans (Vicia faba), are actually a member of the pea family, and are one of the oldest known cultivated plants. Favas are also known by an amazing variety of other names: broad beans, Windsor beans, horse beans, and even pigeon beans. Frequently dried, fava beans have been a part of cuisines all around the Mediterranean and the Chinese have eaten them for more than 5000 years. They've been found in some of the earliest known human settlements and are referred to in legends and lore throughout recorded history. Fresh fava beans come in large, long (7 to 9 inch) thick pods with a white blanket-like padding inside to protect the pretty beans they carry. The beans themselves look like small to medium-sized lima or butter beans. Because the fresh beans need to be shelled, then cooked and peeled, they need a little forethought to include on menus. But, just like fresh green peas, the shelling and peeling is a sit-down, social activity. So, instead of stopping to smell the roses, stop to shell and peel the fava beans and then enjoy their buttery texture, bright taste and sparkling green color.