Peas are a tiny, plump, round, green seed full of yummy tastiness. As a vegetable to grow at home they can be a little temperamental however they are worth the effort just so that you can pick and eat them straight off the bush. In addition to this pea shoots make a tasty addition to a salad. Peas;
- can be a challenge to grow, you should follow the guidelines carefully to get a good crop
- may not produce a large crop per plant so for a large harvest you will need plenty of space
- can be sown in succession for a steady harvest over a period of time
- taste at their best when just picked so best picked and eaten quickly
- are very easy to freeze and taste almost as good from the freezer as they do fresh
Personally I think peas are best eaten raw straight out of the pod, preferably just after the pod has been picked. They are at their best at this point because the natural sugars quickly turn to starch so the sweetness will fade. Shop bought fresh peas in their pods will never taste as good as home grown for this very reason. They are also one of those fun vegetables to harvest because the pods really do go pop, The challenge is to see how loud a pop your pod makes and how many peas are hidden inside. I rarely have trouble getting help poding peas.
Brits eat a huge amount of peas. They were the first vegetable to be successfully tinned and frozen. Producers of frozen peas aim to shell and process within hours to capture that fresh sweetness which means they taste almost as good as freshly picked when defrosted. They are regularly served up in pubs and restaurants as, unlike some frozen vegetables, peas defrost and cook well from frozen without going sloppy or hard and unpleasant. In fact defrosted frozen peas tast great without additional cooking.
There are many different varieties and each has it's place. As you can succession sew you get first earlies, second earlies and main crop. First earlies can also be sewn late into July for an Autumn crop. Some varieties are grown for their pods rather than the peas. I am referring to Mange Tout and Asparagus peas here, which are equally tasty and can be stored without a great loss of flavour, but they are not quite so much fun. Then of course there are the big fat dried marrowfat peas which make the best mushy peas ever, a must for my fish and chips.
Timings for the best crop
- Early varieties can be sewn into the ground in November to over winter and produce peas in May.
- In general it is best to start your seeds off between March and June, for a late crop in October plant first early seeds in Early July.
- Seeds can be sewn direct in late spring but for best results on an early crop grow the seeds indoors in deep paper pots, the roots do not like to be disturbed.
- You should see the tips starting to show within 10 days.
- Seedlings sewn indoors March to early May will need to be 5 cm tall and hardened off before you plant them out, be mindful of slugs.
- Your crop should be ready to start harvesting between June and October The first frosts will kill off your late plants so don't plan fresh peas for Christmas day, frozen will be equally good.
Time to enjoy peas!