The peas, which were somewhat slow in their initial growth due the unusually cool spring, are now ripening almost faster than we can pick them.
Gardeners have long recognized the importance of an expeditious harvest and this was commented upon by Samuel Fullmer in his worthy tome, The Young Gardener’s Best Companion (1795):
“When the crops of peas arrive to bearing let the pods be gathered as often as they succeed to perfection, while young and green; permitting them to grow plump, but not leaving them till they get old, for the closer they are gathered when fit, the longer they will continue blossoming and bearing; beside, when peas are moderately young they are greatly superior for eating.”
The first harvest of the season comes from the Prince Albert peas sown in the hotbed frame in January.
They were followed by the sickle peas sown in the open ground in February.
This pea is remarkable for the edible, sickle shaped, pods from whence it received its name.
It is also the sweetest of any known variety; a distinction that creates its own problems as explained by John Mortimer in 1707: “The great Inconvenience that attends them is, that their extraordinary sweetness makes them liable to be devoured by Birds.”
Visitors to my garden today recognize them as a snap or sugar pea.
The last pea of the season and the one we are currently harvesting is the Marrowfat.
This is also the largest of the peas with vines that typically grow 7 feet tall.
It is a shell pea, not quite so sweet as the early season varieties but a stalwart in the English kitchen for the “pease porridge” made famous in the children’s nursery rhyme and used by the English to this very day for “mushy peas.” A uniquely and some would say, curious, English obsession.
I will be away next week on a journey to examine Rhododendrons in the southern Appalachian Mountains. I look forward to our further conversation in the week following.