Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Pea progress

When I check the hit counter I sometimes notice that some visitors to PPPs stumble into my blog after googling 'peas purple podded ', obviously wanting horticultural information . . .

so whether you're here for the peas or for another reason, this afternoon we're talking peas in all their glory.

I've just taken a tea-break after spending the afternoon baking sponge cakes for the village fete (one cake is sort of fun, more than two in one afternoon is so tedious, I've got no chance of being the Queen of Cakes, – how does she do it?). I wandered out to the vegetable garden where the high red-brick wall shades half the plot in the afternoon, it's here that this year I'm growing the peas – ten varieties on five rustic arches over the side paths between the raised beds.

I've noticed that other English veg-garden bloggers are well into their pea harvests, mine are just coming into pod – the result of growing them in semi-shade. The up-side is that they haven't needed watering even though we've had some scorching weather already this spring. Here are my 'original' PPPs - the first 'Purple Podded Pea' that I grew and it always puts on a show . . .

This year it's sharing an arch support with 'Golden Sweet'. I first grew this pea four years ago from seed obtained from the Heritage Seed Library. It didn't do well, getting shaded out by neighbouring crops. But the next year I found one little self-seeded pea plant among the broad beans and it had pretty golden pods. I carefully saved the seed and planted them last year, only to have snails munch through most of them in last year's dull, damp summer. In the autumn the weather improved and I was able to save a good quantity of seed. At long last I can see why Daughter of the Soil gave them such a glowing report.

One of my favourite peas from last year is 'Victorian Purple Podded', it doesn't get top marks for flavour or texture but it's an elegant looking pea – here is a close up of one of the flowers . . .

Each year I try to grow some pea varieties I haven't tried before, this one is 'Tutankhamun' – one of my selected seeds from the HSL this year. This pea is said to have originated from the gardens at Highclere in Berkshire owned by Lord Carnarvon; the very chap who financed Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. Allegedly Carter and Carnarvon found some dried peas among the artifacts in the tomb . . . could these be the descendants of the peas from the tomb? Who knows! but it's a nice tale and they're nice looking peas with lovely white flowers, a good contrast to all the pink and purple flowers on the PPPs.

Here's another newbie in my garden – 'Carlin', a seed swap with a fellow pea-enthusiast over on the Suffolk coast. Mmmmmmm?! not sure this one's going to win me over with its looks, it's a thumping big pea plant which has already engulfed it's side of the eight foot high arch and is only just showing the first flower. But, I'm not being put off by it's less than dainty appearance, this pea has pedigree – it's history in the north-east of England goes back to 1644 when Newcastle was under siege from the Scots, the townsfolk were at the point of starvation when a Dutch ship evaded the blockade and reached the port – it was laden with dried peas, hurrah!!! Similar peas were probably common fare in monastery gardens throughout the middle ages. Up there in Tyneside, the Sunday before Palm Sunday is known as Carlin Sunday and the traditional plat du jour is Carlin Peas, served with salt and pepper, brown sugar and vinegar or rum (!?). We'll have to give it a try!

Wait a minute . . . what's that in the stripy shadows under the artichoke leaves . . .


  1. Looks like a fabulous place to snooze!

    We harvested oour first pod last week, with much excitement. the girls can't wait to get up to the allotment when school is out for the week to see whether they can find any more ...

  2. The yellow and purple peas are going to be gorgeous together on that shared support. My peas are almost done. I've got the paper pots made for starting the beans that will take place of the peas. Now, if I could just drag myself away from the computer I might get the seeds sown.

  3. I know the post is all about peas but...I need to say a cat could not sleep in the shade under my artichokes as they are too small hmmph!

    I have had some pods from my poppet peas (first time ever not become slug fodder!)very exciting.

    When you save seed do you get cross fertilisation from the varieties you grow? and how do you know?

  4. Hi Rhiannon, peas are self fertile, i.e. the male and female bits are enclosed within the flower and pollination occurs inside, so it's very very rare for a pea to cross pollinate naturally. You can of course intervene in this process and do your own cross breeding of varieties. Have a look at Rebsie's blog and web site 'Daughter of the Soil' - I'm sure she explains all this far better than I can.

    That's why saving seeds of peas is so much easier and more reliable than other veg.


  5. Your heritage peas are beautiful, in fact I thought they were sweet peas at a glance. Re as for "other English veg-garden bloggers..." they probably sequence sowed their peas, in fact I believe you can start some off, for an early crop, in October/November, pinching back the shoots though early Spring. I've not done this yet as room has been an issue, but now I have the allotment and some cold frames, I'm going to try. I seem to have more luck with climbing peas as with beans than the bush varieties. This year I've planted both bush and climbing Borlotti beans to check this theory for weight and taste! And of course, there is no problem of a glut as they dry so wonderfully. Love the cards you sent BTW, regards F

  6. I find this interesting. I am starting a new blog about my gardening experiences. I plan to visit your site in the future for ideas.

    ~GG in the house

  7. Purple poddeds are gorgeous aren't they? I've got Lancashire Lad (not growing this year due to lack of space but it cropped fantastically last year), Caruthers' Purple Podded and Ezetha's Krombek Blauwschok - these two are growing this year. I have to say I found the fresh Caruthers a touch bitter, the LL a bit mealy and dry - though excellent for mushy peas. The winner so far is Ezetha's. The mature peas are sweet and tasty so this is my PPP of choice (so far!).

    If I've got anything in the pea line you fancy, give us a yell!

  8. Such beautiful peas! Ours are only just starting to flower...

    Hope the fete goes well!

  9. I think deep down I knew that peas were self fertile but it had been shelved with a lot of other stuff at school. As somthing about a monk, heredity, and cross pollination all came flooding back with your answer!

    I might go ahead and save some seed as it all makes sense now. As for doing my own cross pollination perhaps something for the future I think as it will be time consuming.I have enough trouble to just grow a crop.


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