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koukia

κουκιά

Broad or fava beans (not to be confused with yellow split peas, or fava)

Broad beans have been part of the Greek diet since Neolithic times. Today they are often served in a stew during Lent with artichokes, when still very young and still in the pods, which are edible.

Pythagoras and the beans

The mystic mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras prohibited his followers from eating koukia. Some say it was because he believed that beans and humans were made of the same flesh-like substance, or because he thought that whenever a person farted they lost a part of their soul. The Roman poet Horace jokingly called broad beans 'the relatives of Pythagoras'.

But probably Pythagoras, who was pretty smart, knew that Greeks are prone to favism (a G6PD deficiency in the blood that causes red blood cells to break down, triggered by eating fava beans or breathing in their pollen).

Text © Dana Facaros

Images by: Robin, public domain