Friday, 3 April 2020

Peas, please! - Friday 3rd April 2020

Young pea plants of the variety 'Homesteader', grown by Marty
 My wife Marty has taken me to task for calling the garden I share with her 'my' garden in this blog, although of course it belongs to us both. Like many homes with two keen gardeners, we each have our own parts and our own jobs. Marty manages our handsome front garden with the help of our skilled gardener Geraldine, and raises most of the vegetables, which she plants out into raised beds. I manage the grass, the hedges and shrubs, and the mini woodland I call the wilderness.

Honour where it is due, today's subject is peas, both as a vegetable and as flowers, and Marty has been busy with them. In the photo above you can see a tray of young pea plants in the greenhouse. The variety is an old one called 'Homesteader', which Marty got on our visit to the US last year - it's not a name I recognise on this side of the Atlantic. It is a heritage variety dating back to the early 1900s, and clearly still popular in America. Marty is delighted with the high germination rate. I look forward to picking and eating fresh peas in a little over 2 months, just cooked for a minute or two with pleanty of farmhouse butter!

My Grandfather, Jocelyn Waller of Prior Park, grew peas in the 1960s for the Erin Foods factory in Thurles, like many other local farmers - sadly the plant has been closed for many years. They had to be harvested by a contractor at exactly the right time and sent to the factory to be frozen within hours. Do you remember the Birds Eye advertising jingle, "Sweet as the moment when the pod went pop"? It was the same idea. I remember the anxiety in the house as harvest time approached. Were the peas ready? Could the contractor be got in time? Would the peas obtain the desired price at the factory? I'm not sure, but I think he soon decided peas were too much trouble as a crop, and stopped growing them.

Marty's Sweet Pea plants waiting to be planted out
Marty is also growing Sweet Peas in the greenhouse, as she does every year - the seeds were planted in the winter, and as they grow tall they are chopped to make sturdy, branching plants, to plant out when the danger of frosts is past. They are always wonderful, and during the season she picks large fragrant bunches for the house and to give away - I call her "My Sweet Pea Queen of North Tipperary". She says for the year that's in it she wants to concentrate on vegetables, not flowers, but I hope she finds a good place so that these strong plants don't go to waste - a summer without sweet peas would be no summer at all!

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