Monday, May 21, 2007

Snap Pea Trials for 2007

One shortcoming in our South Bay clay soil is that it can be hard to balance moisture without waterlogging plants. The peas I'd been growing, Super Sugar Snap, did okay in San Jose, in 95112-land, but here in Sunnyvale they had big issues in the combination of clay and my-yard microclimate. Seemed like it was too cold and wet for them to grow, or too hot for them to avoid awful downy and powdery mildew. I tried Oregon Sugar in 2006, hoping that they'd do better than the Sugar Snaps.

I figured that the 'Oregon' part might protect them, as it's kind of wet there, but it seems to be the drainage issue that did them in. I also found them to be perhaps excessively vigorous, producing vines taller than my head but not with the volume of peas you'd expect from vines that huge. As you can see in this photo from a year-and-a-week ago, that makes for pretty pictures, but I wanted more peas. And I got 'em!

I tried Sugar Snap, Cascade, and Suffolk Snap peas this year, in 3 separate areas of a dozen or so plants each. I've been feasting on whole-pod peas for the past few weeks, eating fresh right out of the garden-- another joy of Not Spraying for the organic gardener. Have only put up a couple of quarts in the freezer, but them's the breaks! Would rather munch them fresh.

The Sugar Snap and Cascade both turned out to be 'compact', e.g. only about 3 to 4 feet tall, and bushy. I had to patiently keep turning their attention to the trellising. I suspect they'd do as well or better free-standing in a spare tomato cage. Next year I'll endeavor to remember to try that, and plant spring peas of those types in a cage where I want a tomato. The Suffolks reached for the sky nicely, topping out at 7 feet. Picture is from Jan 29th, sown in ground without pre-sprouting on Jan 1st or 3rd.

Flavors? The flat-pod stage definitely favored Cascade over either of the other two. Sweeter and 'greener' tasting. Once the pods began to swell, though, and we had a dash of unseasonable heat, the story changed. The Suffolks are by far sweeter tasting, with a large measure of sugar moving to the peas inside the pod. The Cascades also have sweet peas, but the pod flavor flattens and has a slightly bitter aftertaste. The Sugar Snaps are pretty consistently 'good' in both stages, which is to say that they taste great until you taste the better of the other two, at which point you say, "hey, these only go up to 5 and these others go up to 11, hmf".

I have gotten some peas from the Suffolks that have some very different characteristics from the main batch. Namely, the pods have shrunken to almost translucency and withered, but without splitting. The peas inside are whole and sound, and beginning to dry. I speculate that this is a recessive coming out that has potential to be a shelling pea variant. Some of the standard pods have the tan-n-wrinkly thing going, and a few remained plump and green but split open when fully ripe. I'm saving the wrinkly pods to dry for seed, and will sow a small test patch in the fall, away from other peas, to see what happens. Will post pictures when I get a chance.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Brian McCarthy said...

nice shoots... I have seen some nice shoots here: http://looking-through-my-camera.blogspot.com/

1:02 AM PDT  
Blogger Paul said...

nice job on the blog! there's quite a lot of things here

5:35 PM PDT  
Blogger Katie said...

I appreciate your review, esp differentiating between the flat and round pod phases. I've got some Cascades right now that are terrific (flat pod phase), and am looking forward to seeing how they taste as they mature, but I've never tried Suffolks, so I'll have to keep my eyes open for those!

2:53 PM PDT  

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