One of the greatest rewards when growing your own crops is the taste of fresh peas straight from the pod. This taste is never recaptured despite the modern process of fast freezing and by the time fresh pod peas reached the market the taste has all but gone.
The pea is thought to be one of the first vegetables to be farmed, probably at first in India. Peas were also eaten by the ancient Egyptians. Evidence also suggests that the Romans and the Greeks ate peas as Peas porridge.
Long before the grey spitting image version of John Major* the people of France were getting excited about peas. Madame de Maintenon wrote in 1696, ‘….The anxiety to eat them, the pleasure of having eaten them and the desire to eat them again, are the three great matters that have been discussed by our princes for the past four days’. – The French obsession lasted for a long time, in fact 100 years after Madame de Maintenon wrote, the first plate of green peas of the season would exchange hands for 800 francs – about 45 Euros or £32 in today’s equivalent.
Feltham First and Douce Provence can be sown in the Autumn (Fall) and in late Winter/early spring for a May harvest. Although this is only in sunny sheltered warmer areas, in other less favourable climates cloches may be used to give the pea plants some protection. It is perhaps wise to use the wrinkled seeded varieties if you wish to sow peas in late summer.
Peas should be sown 5cm (2in) apart in drills 5cm (2in) deep and in rows 60-90cm (2-3ft) apart. They prefer a sunny position in a spot that has not grown any peas in the last 2 years. Before sowing, dig a trench to a spade’s depth, take out the soil and break up the sub soil with a fork, add compost or well rotted manure and return the soil to the trench. Precautions should also be made against birds when sowing as you might be waiting for a plant to grow that was a crow’s lunch weeks before (as I have done). You can string up CD’s around your sowings to act as scarecrows, or place netting over your patch. Birds are very territorial beings so if you have a collection of feathers, stick them in the ground around your crop and this can sometimes be enough to deter an attack.
Most pea plants will need some support; add this when they reach 5-8cm (2-3in). You can use bamboo poles, or long twigs. This is pretty important as slugs will finish them off if you don’t.
Keep the area free of weeds by regular hoeing.
Water well during dry spells. You could apply a mulch of grass clippings in order to conserve moisture.
Grow dwarf varieties in a container at least 15cm (6in) deep. Kelvedon Wonder is reportedly one of the best varieties to grow in containers.
Peas and their pods are high in protein, calcium, carbohydrates, vitamin B and E and also contain trace elements potassium and phosphorus.
Pois St Germain
2 cos Lettuces
2-3 Small sliced carrots
2-3 Spring Onions (with their greens) chopped
2 glasses of dry white wine
900g (2lbs) Shelled peas
30g (1oz) butter
pinch of salt and Sugar
Cover the bottom of a large saucepan with whole lettuce leaves covering the entire bottom. Add the wine, carrots, onions and then the peas, seasoning and butter. Leave covered, on a low heat for about 20 mins or until contents are tender.
Serve with smile.
Peas a la Pig
240g (8oz) Spilt dried yellow peas
2.5ltr (5 pints) water
450g (1lb) of salted pork
half teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon marjoram
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Rinse the peas and stick them in a saucepan, cover and leave overnight. Using the same water, heat the peas to boiling point. Skim the outer shells of the peas off the top of the water. Now simmer for 2 hours. Keep checking that the pan does not boil dry.
After 2 hours add the pork, ginger and marjoram. Slice the onions and add them too. Cover again and now simmer for a further 1 hour. Add the salt and pepper and take out the pork. The pork can be eaten separately.
Serve with a grin.
*Spitting Image was a satirical comedy in the 1980’s (UK) and they depicted the then prime minister John Major as a grey, boring man who only talked about peas.
Article written by Dave Hamilton. Dave has now left Selfsufficientish but you can catch up with him on davehamilton.me.uk or on twitter @davewildish