Peas are almost every child’s favourite vegetable, with good reason. Together with sweet corn they are among the sweetest tasting of all vegetables, and when grown in your garden they taste even sweeter. I always eat my first pod of peas uncooked, just to savour the flavour.
Although there have always been a wide range of varieties in peas, this year has seen two new ideas in Thompson and Morgans seed catalogue. The first is a tall variety (6 ft tall).
This is a Mangetout/snap pea called Golden Sweet.
It has mauve flowers so will look decorative as well as providing peas. Picked and used in stir-fries or just plain steamed, mangetout peas straight from the garden are much sweeter than any of those brought from shops. This is because, like sweet corn the sugar starts to turn to starch as soon as the pods are picked. You should pick mangetout peas very early, before the peas start to swell.
The second new variety offered by T & M is Maro ‘The Mushy Pea’ .
Mushy Peas have suddenly become fashionable again, probably due to celebrity chef’s using them. These peas are stored by drying them after you have harvested them. When you want to use them, you just soak them overnight, then boil them with a little salt and sugar.
Most pea varieties are between 18 ins(4cm) and 3 ft (90cm) tall. They need support, although some varieties are advertised as self supporting if grown in blocks. I do not find this very satisfactory as they become unkempt and difficult to harvest. Peas grow best if they are kept weeded. You also have to bear in mind that small rodents and birds love peas. Net tunnels will solve the problem.
When sowing peas, they should be sown in rows with two peas sown every 6 ins. In fact, because peas are so beloved of small rodents, I sow them 3 seeds in 3″ pots and plant them out in rows with the pot contents touching each other. I just dig a small trench and plant the peas in them. I also put in twigs as supports at the same time.
You should try to sow peas in succession so that you never have too many at one time. You can start sowing in March (February under cover) until May or even June. (I actually sowed some in the middle of July last year and although they were not wonderful, I did get some peas. ). If you do have more peas then you can use at one time, then they freeze very well, losing none of their flavour in the process. Try to freeze them as soon as possible after you have harvested them.
Like all vegetables, peas are very good for you. Mangetout peas are high in potassium and all peas are a good source of Vitamins A , B1, C and folic acid. Peas also help remove cholesterol as they contain soluble fibre.