I remember an art college summer holiday design project where we were asked by the tutor to write and illustrate a brochure to promote an animal or plant. The example they showed us was for an egg, so we had to choose something different. I selected a horse (goodness knows why I did that, talk about biting off more than I could chew!), I still remember one of the other students amazing diagrams of a horse chestnut case splitting open to reveal the conker inside.
Now I'm a lot older and a little bit wiser I would choose a pea pod. What a genius design solution – a little purse, available not only in shades of green but in fashionable purple too; which neatly pops open to reveal a neat row of peas, each a potential new pea plant.
The peas that I am saving for seed for next year's crop (and for seed swaps – let me know if you're interested) have now been harvested, so here is a round up of their attributes, good and bad . . .
Marks are out of a maximum score of 10
Purple Podded (home saved seeds, originally from Heritage Seed Library member Chris Knight)
Looks: 7 – tall, attractive flowers and pods
Flavour: 6 – very slightly bitter after taste when eaten raw, good cooked pea
This was my first 'purple podded pea' and for sentimental reasons I'll always continue to grow it.
Victorian Purple Podded (Heritage Seed Library selection 2008)
Looks: 9.5 – very tall, flowers and pods carried on long strong stems; pods long and pointed
Flavour: 3 – bitter and mealy textured, OK when cooked
This is a stunning plant, I'll continue to grow it in the decorative borders. I will have to try cooking the dried peas – who knows? it may be a great mushy pea!
Clarke's Beltony Blue (seed swap with Rebsie of Daughter of the Soil)
Looks: 7 – the plant itself wasn't vigorous and pods are fairly small, but they are a rich deep dark purple
Flavour: 6 – nice flavour, slightly sweeter than 'Purple Podded'
I'm interested to see if the plants grow stronger next year, snails were a problem at their end of the bed this year but they started to put up a second flush of shoots which did well.
Carruthers' Purple Podded (seed swap with Rebsie of Daughter of the Soil)
Looks: 8 – fairly long stems carry the lovely bi-colour purple flowers followed by the purple pods; a vigorous and productive plant
Flavour: 9 – beautiful sweet peas, definitely the best flavoured of all the purple podded varieties I grew this year
Rebsie selected this pea for some of her pea breeding experiments because of its sweet flavour and I know why - it's delicious!
Golden Sweet (home saved seeds, originally from the Heritage Seed Library 2006)
Looks: 6 – this pea plant wasn't very strong and tended to flop and straggle about, however the young pods are a lovely golden colour
Flavour: 8.5 – a good sweet flavoured pea, and good cooked when mature
This is reputedly one of the varieties grown by Gregor Mendle for his peoneering experiments in genetics, so I'll keep a little corner of the veg patch for this historic pea. The snails seemed to love it – so there weren't many left for me! As with 'Clarke's Beltony Blue' it had a second flush of growth so I have some seed after all.
Salmon Flowered (seed swap with Rebsie of Daughter of the Soil)
Looks: 9.5 – this is an amazing pea like nothing else I've grown; the structure is like a pantomime set tree which bursts into a bouquet of salmon pink flowers followed by dozens of tiny fat pods packed tight with peas
Flavour: 7 – good flavour but mealy texture, maybe another candidate for mushy pea stardom!
I'm definitely growing this again, it would look amazing in a decorative border and it's surprisingly productive and easy to harvest as all the pods are clustered at the top of the plant.