Greetings Harvesting History Friends and Neighbors!
The 2019 New Year begins in 3 days and with it the start of the 2019 gardening season, but we are getting a jump start on the season with our first newsletter of the 2019 season today. This season our newsletters will focus on three types of gardeners:
• Traditional Heirloom Gardeners,
• Teachers Who Inspire Children to Become Gardeners and
• Container Gardeners
This newsletter’s topic is PEAS, one of the oldest, most beloved fruits of all time. Peas probably originated in Eastern Europe or Central Asia and are among the oldest of the cultivated crops and one of the most important to civilization. It is thought that mankind began to cultivate plants and seeds around 10,000 BC and archaeologists have found evidence of peas as a part of the human diet in a prehistoric cave in Burma that has been carbon dated at 9750 years old. Knowledge of the cultivation and preparation of peas spread quickly along the trade routes to China and throughout Europe. Chinese legend credits one of their great emperors, Shen Nung (known as the Chinese Father of Agriculture) with discovering the pea 5000 years ago.
Ancient peoples did not consume fresh peas. Peas were usually dried and then cooked, but sometimes fresh peas were harvested, but not consumed until they had been cooked. It was not until the 1600’s in Europe that the practice of eating fresh peas became popular. The American colonists brought peas with them from Europe and began cultivating them throughout the Eastern US in the 1600’s.
There are two different kinds of peas: Shelling Peas (also known as Garden or English Peas) and Edible Pod Peas. The difference between Edible Pod Peas and Shelling Peas is that Shelling Peas have a membrane inside the pod between the pod and the peas. As the pod ripens the membrane dries, becomes rigid and contracts. This hardening of the membrane causes the pod to twist, open and expel the peas, but renders the pod inedible.
Edible Pod Peas do not have this membrane. When the pods are ripe, they are edible. There are two kinds of Edible Pod Peas: Snap Peas and Snow Peas. Snap Peas have round pods and Snow Peas have flat pods. Both types of Edible Pod Peas are believed to be very old, but snap peas were lost to Western man centuries ago and only rediscovered in the 1970’s. Snow Peas have been cultivated in Asia for thousands of years and are an important part of the Chinese diet.
If the weather is cool enough, peas are easy to grow. They can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. Some varieties, like Early Frosty, can also be planted in late summer for a fall crop. Fall peas should be planted about 8 weeks before the first hard frost. Peas should not be sown in succession. It is better to plant an early and a late producing variety at thesame time to extend the season.
Peas like the soil to be cool or cold, but cannot tolerate cold, moist soil. An application of bone meal for phosphorous and a source of potassium is recommended. In the South, mulch the soil around the plants to keep the ground cooler.
Peas should be planted 6-8 inches apart in rows, 18 inches to 2 feet apart. Most pea varieties require trellising.
The English or Shelling Pea, Little Marvel
Little Marvel is my favorite shelling pea. It is truly a gift from our British neighbors and cousins. The variety was introduced in 1908 and at the time was called American Wonder, but its roots (forgive the pun) were purely British. Little Marvel is a cross between two British varieties, Daisy and William Hurst. It exceeded even the greatest expectations for this cultivar, because Little Marvel plants were only 15-20 inches tall, usually requiring no trellising, but these little plants were prolific producers which produced over a very long season. The 3-4 inch long pods contained 6-7 little peas – some of the sweetest you will ever taste. Since its introduction in 1908 it has continually been one of the most popular shelling peas available.
Sugar Snap Pea, Sugar Ann
The Snap Pea is believed to be a fortuitous cross between Shelling Peas and Snow Peas. Snap peas, probably, were known to ancient peoples. However, somehow the Snap Pea was lost and was only rediscovered fairly recently. In 1970, Calvin Lamborn, a plant scientist working on peas, discovered a plant growing in one of his trial fields which produced unusual peas – ones where the pod did not crack and expel the peas. Lamborn found the peas and the pods to be incredibly sweet and perfectly edible. The plant he discovered eventually became known as the Sugar Snap Pole Pea and in 1979 was selected for an AAS award. This pea has spawned a family of very sweet, edible pod peas with names like Sugar Ann, Sugar Daddy, Sugar Sprint and Sugar Bon.
For Container Gardeners
Pole Pea, Sugar Snap Pole
Pole Peas like Pole Beans produce throughout the season. They are not limited to a few weeks production like the dwarf varieties. Because of this factor, pole varieties are better suited for small spaces because you receive the maximum yield for the space allotted. Peas grow very well in containers.
The absolutely best soil mix for containers is 60% crummy backyard soil, 20% peat moss and 20% dehydrated cow manure or, even better, compost. If you blatantly refuse to use backyard soil then purchase topsoil (not potting soil, special soil mixes, premium soil). Mix the ingredients together and pour into a pot.
We recommend planting 6 plants in an 18-inch diameter container and then constructing a bamboo teepee made of three-8 foot tall bamboo poles tied at the top. This creation will produce many pounds of peas, if the peas are harvested frequently. If the pods are left on the vines, the vines will go into dormancy.
The vines of the Sugar Snap Pole Pea grow to a height of 4-6 feet. They produce fruit in about 65 days. The pods are 2-3 inches and produce 6-8 peas. The peas are quite sweet. The plants are known to tolerate mild frosts.
For Teachers Who Inspire Children to Become Gardeners
The Edible Pod Pea, Dwarf Grey Sugar
This new section is dedicated to teachers of children: school teachers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, next door neighbors and those who love to have children be with them while they toil in the garden. Its purpose is to share with each of you some extraordinary fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs that will capture the imagination of children and teach them how to be inspired gardeners.
For this inaugural issue of our children’s gardening newsletter section we have selected the Dwarf Grey Sugar Pea. Growing peas is an exceptional way to introduce children to gardening. Pea seeds (the actual pea itself) are a great size for little hands to manipulate. Peas germinate fairly quickly-usually 7-10 days depending on the weather. They can be one of the first seeds planted in the gardening season, and they can be planted again in mid-summer teaching children about Second Season gardening. For teachers concerned about producing a crop before the end of the school year, peas are an excellent choice because they will produce a crop in early May if started in late February or March. As stated earlier, peas make excellent container plants. The construction of pea teepees can be a marvelous learning experience for an entire class.
The Dwarf Grey Sugar Pea Flower
The Dwarf Grey Sugar Pea produces absolutely stunning flowers before the pods emerge. These flowers can capture the imagination of any child.
Edible pod peas are very, very sweet. They are a great way to introduce children to vegetable gardening because often the pea pods are so sweet that they rival candy and can be eaten fresh off the vine.
Edible Pod peas are also known as Snow Peas and are the pea pods that you encounter when eating Chinese food. These peas are closely related to snap peas, but the pods are very flat and the peas are immature when the pod sare ready to be eaten. You can leave the pods to swell with mature peas, but if you do, the pea and pea pods will lose their sweetness and are actually rather unpleasant. These pea pods are meant to be eaten when the peas are underdeveloped.
Dwarf Grey Sugar was carried by the earliest American colonists to this country. This is one of the oldest pea varieties still in cultivation. It is also one of the earliest maturing, requiring only 60 days and one of the smallest of the snow pea plants with vines of 2-3 feet.
This pea is my personal favorite, not just because of its sweet flavor, but more because of the extravagant show it puts on in the garden, as you can see from the photo above. The magenta blossoms are striking and reminiscent of beautiful fuchsia flowers. When everything else in the garden is shades of green or white, these luxurious blossoms are a sight for longing eyes. The plants tolerate cold fairly well so they can be planted in early spring or mid-summer for a fall crop.
If you have never grown peas, this is the year to start! If you have grown peas before try some of our heirloom varieties listed on our website, www.harvesting-history.com. Spring is coming!
Harvesting History needs email addresses. If you have enjoyed this newsletter please send us 5 email addresses from your friends to email@example.com
Celebrate your uniquely American horticultural heritage
Harvest Your History
Seed Your Future
FREE SHIPPING on orders $50 and above