Interview by Bibi van der Zee, guardian.co.uk, Updated: April 19, 2013 14:51 IST
Nick Saltmarsh of Hodmedod's shares his passion (and a recipe) for this ancient staple - plus an exclusive reader offer.
I used to go off foraging when I was at school; the school food was not really up to much, so I'd supplement it with whatever I found in the grounds. As I grew more adventurous, I moved from blackberries, chestnuts and nettles to sheep's sorrel, puffballs and chickweed. Then, when I was at university, I'd work on farms during the summer. That was where I found what I was really passionate about, and I've been working on local food and sustainability ever since.
A couple of years ago I was researching food around Norwich and became really interested by the fact that local farmers were growing huge amounts of fava beans, but were then exporting them to the Middle East, or selling them as animal feed.
It turns out that the fava bean - also known as the broad bean - is one of the oldest cultivated crops in the UK, and we were eating it as far back as the iron age. It was a crucial part of the British diet for centuries, but in more recent times it became stigmatised as a food of the poor, and fell out of fashion.
However, they are an important part of our crop rotation system, so farmers have carried on growing them. We grow around 500,000 tonnes a year in the UK. So we bought some ourselves, tried them and really loved them. Then we bought a couple of tonnes and put them in some local shops and got really brilliant feedback. People thought they were delicious, and also really loved the story behind them. So we decided we wanted to bring back the fava bean for good.