Ok, I have to admit it.
I have climate envy.
This week, my poor garden has been under snow again. It's pretty cold here.
So this week may be a good time to look at a wonderful cool weather crop – Peas!
Peas are easy to grow but prefer cooler temperatures – best planted when soil temperatures are between 8°C and 24°C, peas can been sown from Autumn through to late Spring. If you haven't already sown your peas, it's not too late, but do it soon. That's good news for me, as it definitely seems counter-intuitive to be sowing seeds under snow!
Peas are self-pollinating - the transfer of pollen takes place within the individual flowers without the aid of insects or wind. You don't have to wait for it to be warm enough for bees to fly.
Successive sowings every few weeks will give you a longer time to enjoy harvesting peas fresh from your own garden!
Sow your peas and protect them from birds, as they also find pea shoots delicious. Once you have your seedlings germinating, space plants about 5-8 cm apart.
Your pea plants will need some support as they grow – Pea Sticks are cheap and easy to use and look pretty darn cool in the garden – use any tree prunings you have handy – sticks with plenty of branching twigs are ideal – hazel is traditionally used but any sticks will do. Otherwise, use strings, trellising or wires to support your pea plants as they grow. Ensure you support your tall pea varieties well, but remember that even your dwarf peas will need some support.
Harvest your peas frequently – you can enjoy the whole pods when they are small,- as Mange tout. You can also nip off some of the pea shoots to add to your salad, or if you have chosen a podding pea, wait until the pods are fat and shell the peas for a wonderful fresh-from-the-garden experience! Sowing a few different varieties of peas will give you some variety in the kitchen and on the plate.
So – which ones to choose? Here are a few options from our Organic Heirloom varieties:
This pea is the leading variety of shelling pea for home gardeners. If you want an organic, heirloom shelling pea for fresh, fat garden peas for the table (or for the freezer), this is a great choice. Pea Progress grows into big, healthy, productive vines, with peas ready for harvest 55 days from sowing.
This pea was bred by the famous 19th Century plant breeder, Thomas Laxton. Laxton was keenly interested in plant breeding – his aim was to produce better plant varieties. He introduced seventeen new varieties of strawberry, as well as new pea varieties. He was a contemporary and regular correspondent with Charles Darwin, who had this to say about him:
"Recently Mr. Laxton has made numerous crosses, and everyone had been astonished at the vigour and luxuriance of the new varieties which he has thus raised and afterwards fixed by selection. He gave me seed-peas produced from crosses between four distinct kinds; and the plants thus raised were extraordinarily vigorous, being in each case from 1 to 2 or even 3 feet taller than the parent-forms, which were raised at the same time close alongside."
"The Effects of Cross and Self-Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom," Charles Darwin
Pea Progress is reliable, productive and healthy. If, however, you also want to grow something a little different, you could opt for one of the organic peas below:
PEA BLUE SHELLING
Pea Blue Shelling was popular as soon as it was introduced into the Kings Seeds catalogue, and it isn't hard to see why....it grows striking purple pods which can be harvesting young and used as snowpeas, or left until the peas are fat and used as a shelling pea. Of course, if you cook the pods, the purple colour magically vanishes and the pods turn green!
Have you ever wondered why?? It's because the purple colour is due to anthocyanin. Anthocyanins change colour with changes in acidity - for example, the same anthocyanin can be responsible for the red colour of a rose petals and the blue colour of a cornflower petal. When you cook your purple peas or beans, two things happen to make them turns from purple to green. The first thing is that the heat causes decomposition of anthocyanin. Less anthocyanin means less purple. Secondly, the indirect effect of heat is to burst apart cells, diluting the acidity of the cell sap. The green colour, which was previously masked by the anthocyanin, becomes prominent once the anthocyanin concentration drops. In addition, any anthocyanin which is left is in contact with cell sap insufficiently acidic to keep it purple.
Of course, if you are using these peas as mange tout or snow peas, then you can use them raw and retain that wonderful purple colour to make your salads look gorgeous!
And if you also want to add a touch of gold to your salads, you can grow our new Organic Heirloom Pea:
PEA GOLDEN SWEET
Given that I'm always a sucker for something that shows a bit a colour variation, the new Pea Golden Sweet from our Organic Range has got my attention this year.....
Pea Golden Sweet is an heirloom variety from India, which climbs to 2m tall. The peas are wonderful harvested young and used as flat-podded mangetout.
The flowers of peas are also edible and Pea Golden Sweet has very pretty flowers which begin with pale cream coloured buds, opening to a pink, turning to mauve and maturing into a blue flower with a purple wing petal which can even change further to blue shades. It makes a pretty addition to salads and a pretty garnish on the plate. This is a very attractive pea to grow in your garden, with its pretty flowers, good height, generous production and pretty golden pea pods. Definitely on my wish list for this year!
So, which pea variety is beckoning to you?