The SSE preservation garden crew finished planting over 64 varieties of peas this week for evaluation, public display and seed regeneration. In a few short weeks these peas will take over the trellises here at Heritage Farm. But climbing skills aren’t the only interesting thing about peas, here are a few more facts and growing tips that might leave you thinking Pass the Peas!
Peas love cold weather, and should be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Direct seed peas 1-3” apart and ½-1” deep.
Peas are a great option if you are new to seed saving. Pea flowers are papilionaceous (butterfly-shaped) and “perfect”, meaning they contain both male and female parts. This floral anatomy means that flowers are easily self-pollinated with little risk of cross-pollination.
With the exception of dwarf varieties, pea plants need something to climb. Here, we constructed A-frame pea supports made with chicken wire and cedar. These hinged frames are easy to store for use year after year.
In the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook, peas are classified according to culinary use as either pod peas, garden peas, or soup peas. Pod peas, such as ‘Golden Sweet’, have an edible pod and taste best when young and tender.
Garden peas are eaten when the seeds have fully expanded, but haven’t started to dry. The pods may be inedible, but the seeds will be tender and sweet and taste best when eaten fresh from the garden.
Pods of soup pea varieties should be left on the vine until they are dry and the seeds inside have hardened. Dry seeds can be stored for long periods of time and are best used for making soup.
Do you see the leaf-like structure that completely encircles the stem? Known as the stipule, If it has a purple ring at the base of it, then the flowers will be purple. If it is green, then the flowers will be white.
Some varieties, such as ‘Lacy Lady,’ have modified leaves in which the leaflets are replaced by tendrils. While this variety produces less fruit than pea varieties with typical leaves, ‘Lacy Lady’ has an exotic look.