Nothing captures the freshness of early summer quite like a just-picked pea. Such is their sweetness, it’s hard to resist the temptation to pop the pods and devour them long before you reach the kitchen.
Peas and broad beans are two vegetables that more than repay the effort in growing them as their flavour far outstrips anything you can buy.
Think broad beans are tough and need their outer coats removing to make them edible? Think again. Harvest them while they are young and the beans are succulent. In fact, raw broad beans served with pecorino cheese and accompanied by dry Frascati wine is an Italian delicacy.
Both are easy to grow. Broad beans can be sown direct in autumn for over-wintering, or in pots under cover in February and direct into the ground from March to early May.
Peas can be grown outside from March to June once the soil has warmed a little and sowing a new batch every fortnight will give you a continuous supply.
Growing in pots is also a good way to beat the mice, which love the seeds, and is useful on wet or heavy soils where rot can be a problem.
Choose a dwarf variety and there will be no need to worry about staking. ‘The Sutton’ is a broad bean that grows to only about 30cm tall, while planting a double row of the ‘Charmette’ pea makes it self-supporting.
And they can look beautiful too – there are purple peas and crimson-flowered broad beans. Why not try mixing them into your flower borders?
Broad Bean Salad
I love this simple salad that mingles the fresh spring flavour of young broad beans with citrus and mint.
500g broad beans
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove finely sliced
Cook the beans in water until just tender. While they are cooking, mix the olive oil and lemon juice. Once the beans are done, drain and put into a serving dish. Pour over the dressing, add the garlic. Allow to cool to room temperature before adding tearing the mint leaves and stirring through the salad. Serve.