Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Luscious Pea

Forbidden fruit a flavor has
That lawful orchards mocks;
How luscious lies the pea within
The pod that Duty locks!

Emily Dickinson

I've had more luscious peas this year than even Emily Dickinson could have dealt with. Some have even made it to the dinner table. Usually they never get that far, and to be honest, having had a few servings of cooked peas, we have decided that we like them best raw, and so I serve them in the pod as a kind of starter before we eat. It reminds me of a trip to Italy, a couple of years ago, when we ordered broad beans in a restaurant, and were presented with an enormous plate of raw beans, not only were they raw, but also still in their pods! I later learned that this is a local speciality in Puglia, and although I couldn't finish the whole plateful, I did enjoy them as they were young and tender, if a little inelegant!

As you can see my peas are tall, the variety is they very old variety Telephone, and they require staking. I think it's worth the extra bit of effort, since you get far more pea per square foot of row than with the short varieties, which  have mostly been developed for the convenience of  Messrs Birds Eye, who require peas that grow uniformly, mature all at once, and can be harvested mechanically. And you can't harvest six foot tall plants with a machine. The peas aren't all ready at once, which is what we as gardeners are looking for, and can be picked over a period a week or two. The only problem is that there's such an abundance of them that it's difficult to keep up with the picking, and it 's looking like pea soup will be on the menu pretty soon for the older cannonballs that I've missed.

I've also grown "Alderman" another tall pea, whose seed is more generally available, and whilst it's perfectly fine I would still recommend Telephone for its stronger growth, and bigger pods containing up to nine finely flavoured peas. Seed can be obtained from Real Seeds, who warn that the pods tend to swell up before the peas have developed so don't be fooled into picking too early. Seeds Of Italy also supply the seed under the name "Telefono".


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