It’s May in Rome: A Time to Revere, and Fear, Fava Beans

As hungry Italians at the Festival for the Fava Bean lined up in a field in the Roman countryside to order fava and pecorino cheese, fava and porchetta, cream of fava on top of pasta or simply brown bags loaded with fresh fava, the manager of an adjacent garden spoke of the witch-fingered legume with dread.

“We search for them and rip them out,” said Francesco Urso, 72, pointing at a sign that read “The planting of Fava is banned.” The leathery green pod bulging with indented oval beans may be delicious, great for the soil and a cherished Roman springtime snack, Mr. Urso said, but the issue was one of life or death.

“Favism,” he said.

While many Romans celebrate the fleeting May fava season and the coming of spring with fava-heavy picnics outside the city walls, sufferers of favism live in fear. For those with the blood disorder — which Lucio Luzzatto, a leading scientist in the field, said spread throughout the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East because it…

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This article was written by Jason Horowitz and originally published on