Broad beans are an early spring treat, sometimes available as early as June or July but only lasting through to about October.
Look for soft, pale green pods packed with pale green beans. The pods should feel heavy for their size.
Before cooking, fresh broad beans must be shelled, or removed from their pods. Shell them as you would peas by first snapping off the stem and pulling away the tough string on the side of the pod. Then pop each pod open by pressing your thumbnails along its seam. Unless they have been picked while still quite young and small, the skin that covers each shelled bean must be removed before eating, as it is tough and bitter tasting.
To remove the skins, drop the shelled beans into a pot of boiling water and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold running water. Pinch each bean opposite the end where it was attached to the pod and squeeze; the bean should pop free. Use a paring knife to remove any stubborn skins.
Store the beans, still in their pods, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three days.