Pea time….

It’s early days….but they’re on the way….I split the first purple case & plucked a row of peas to eat two weeks ago now, and the number is increasing by the day!  While these ones are not the sweetest of shelling peas to eat raw (at a recent talk by Clive Blazey he referred to them as ‘soup peas’), they are still delicious and we had a whole plate of them last night – blanched then tossed in a little butter and mint – woohoo!  It also struck me yesterday that I must have been saving the seed of these Purple Podded Dutch Peas since the first time I grew them, over 20 years ago!  I remember buying the seed from Diggers and being so excited when they grew over a twig fence in my first attempt at a Kitchen Garden. That’s not a bad run!

I’ve often wondered if it’s just me…but twice this last year, I’ve discovered I’m not alone in this passion for peas – visually, from flower to pod, to pea, as well as the wigwams & tunnels on which they like to clamber, let alone eating them! (Were you to ask my mother she would tell you that peas were my first Kitchen Garden experience as a child….yes, stuffing my face!).  

It would seem pea mania has existed through several hundred years.  The first revelation came last year when reading Peter J Hatch’s  ‘A Rich Spot of Earth, Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello’. Clearly this Founding Father of America was dotty about peas; devoting extensive areas to their cultivation, experimenting with early and late sowings, multiple varieties and instigating pea-growing contests with his neighbours!  There are many delightful quotations throughout the pea chapter (as indeed there are through the entire book).  A contemporary of Jefferson’s, one “Charles Carroll of Annapolis wrote his son in 1773 and expressed the enthusiasm of local gentlemen for fresh peas: I send You….a larger Dish of Green Peas than the last:  I gathered a good Dish on the 24th & a very large Dish on the 25th, 12 dined with me & all eat of them, most were Helped to them twice”. Delightful, don’t you think?  

And I was reminded again in Monty Don’s ‘The Road to Le Tholonet’ (although there is a similar quote in Hatch’s book by Madame de Maintenon in 1696); that peas became a fetish of Louis XIV on being introduced to France in the early 1660’s, and Mme de Sevigne wrote in a letter that “the pea business still goes on.  Impatience to eat them, the pleasure of having eaten them and the hope to eat more of them are the three questions constantly discussed….’.

I highly recommend you delve into both books, and a bowl of peas, if you too have them flourishing in your garden!

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