Saturday, May 19, 2012

Gardentime 2012: Spring Peas

Every year that I've had a garden, I've grown peas. Peas are a bit of a fun plant to grow, though they never have the yield that other plants do, unless you grow a lot of them. They have a quick growing season. Once the summer heat turns on, they wither up and kick it. Yet, despite the meager yields, I continue to make room in a container for them each season.

This year, I was able to get my hands on a packet of Tom Thumb peas. Tom Thumb is a dwarf variety. It maxes out at about 8 inches tall. You do not need to trellis it, since it's so short. It's also a great plant for containers. I grew a bunch (maybe 8 or 10?) in a wide container this season. Each plant has produced three to five pods so far. I think that may be it for this round, as we're nearing June and things are getting hot. Since the plants are pretty hardy, my plan is to do another round at the beginning of fall.

Peas are pretty simple to grow. I soak the seeds in water for several hours, or overnight, before planting. You can dip the seeds in a rhizome inoculant, which apparently improves their yields. I've never done that, mostly because I have never had the inoculant. After about a week or so, the pea shoots pop up. Since the plants are nitrogen fixers, you don't really need to worry about adding fertilizer (I use container mix, so fertilizing isn't a concern anyway).

It's possible to over water the peas, especially if it is a watery spring. Last year, for example, we got a lot of rain and the peas had some mildew problems. If that is a concern, there are powdery mildew resistant varieties available. Generally, I water the peas when the soil looks dry, but hasn't completely dried out yet.

Tom Thumb peas are the shelling variety, so the peas inside the pod grow plump. That's when it's time to harvest. Ideally, the peas in the pod should be evenly sized when the pods are ready to go. The other day, I got about a cup of pods as the harvest. I really think that will be it for now. I left a few pods on the plants, as they weren't quite ready yet.

To be honest, I usually hate the taste of peas. I have for my entire life. As a child, I developed clever ways to make it look like I had eaten the peas on my plate, when really I didn't. But peas fresh from the garden are fantastic. They taste grassy and like spring. I added my small pea harvest to this recipe for leek risotto, from Smitten Kitchen. I also left out the bacon and egg, since I don't eat those things. It was quite delicious.

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