Last year we acquired an allotment – one of the best things ever! We had a fantastic crop of peas and beans and I am hoping for a glut again this year. We have planted runner beans, peas, broad beans and, for the first time, some borlotti beans. I have learnt (the hard) way not to plant peas and beans too early in the season – the crop we optimistically planted at Easter were hit by frost and came to nothing, so here’s hoping this lot fares a little better. You just can’t beat the taste of freshly shelled peas – summer on a plate!

I think that peas and beans are my favourite thing to grow – they look impressive, taste amazing and are powerhouses of nutrition. Packed full of protein, fibre and vitamin C when picked and eaten straightaway – there is not much to beat that.

If you are watching your cholesterol, then peas and beans make an important contribution to your diet as a source of phytosterols – in particular ß-sitosterol. This is the stuff you find in cholesterol-reducing spreads and yoghurt drinks. Studies suggest that vegetables like peas and beans rich in these plant sterols may help balance cholesterol levels in the body. As Northern Ireland has such a high incidence of heart disease, we could all do well to munch more peas, beans and lentils.

Don’t forget that you can eat the young pea shoots as a salad vegetable too – delicious on their own with a light dressing or mixed in with other salad veg like rocket, baby spinach or watercress.
If you are growing your own peas and broad beans and happen to have an excess, try making this nutritious and delicious pea and bean pate for a real taste of summer. Its delicious on sourdough bread, or for a local slant, why not serve with some freshly baked wheaten or oatcakes.