Despite the devastation my pea crop experienced in late April (details here), the day has arrived. I finally have peas. There aren’t many, but at present the snow peas are plentiful enough that I can use them in my salads or in a stir fry or two.

My garden's spring harvest now includes peas and radishes.

My garden's spring harvest now includes peas and radishes.

At this point, less than one fourth of the peas that I originally planted remain. There were four different varieties — a snow pea variety (Dwarf Gray Sugar, W. Atlee Burpee & Co.), an edible-pod sugar pea variety (Mammoth Melting Sugar, W. Atlee Burpee Co.), and two varieties of shellings peas (Dark Seeded Early Perfection & Burpeeana Early, also both W. Atlee Burpee & Co.). After losing about 300 pea plants, I moved what remained closer together and, as a result, the varieties ended up all mixed together. In other words, I no longer knew which plant would bear which type of pea. What to do about this? Hurray for the Internet once again.

By doing a search on all four varieties, I was able to gather enough information to help me identify which was which. For example, the Mammoth Melting peas grow on vines reaching four to five feet. These are easily the tallest of the peas, as the height of the other pea vines ranges from 24 to 30 inches. I have about a dozen Mammoth melting vines growing vigorously, some on a trellis I made with stakes and wire fencing that I had on hand. The others grow on trellises of tree branches and twine.

Mammoth Melting sugar peas in my garden

Mammoth Melting sugar peas in my garden

The Dwarf Gray sugar peas are very easy to spot. While the other varieties have white blossoms, these peas have blossoms violet-red in color, with reddish tinted stems. These peas also seem to be growing vigorously, but it appears that just 15 or so plants survived the April assault.

Dwarf Gray sugar peas in my garden

Dwarf Gray sugar peas in my garden

The rest are the shelling peas. I am having more difficulty telling these two apart. One appears to have a darker foliage. The Dark Seeded Early Perfection is described as having larger pods and somewhat longer vines. Perhaps I’ll be able to distinguish them as the pods fill out more. At present, while I have more than 50 of these plants, many are not thriving. Many were munched upon earlier this spring, but because of peas’ incredible will to live, the plants grew side shoots. Some have done well, but some have not. Only time will tell what kind of harvest they will bear.

A word about the trellises that I am using. I mentioned the fence-and-stake trellis. This was made using wire fencing that had been left in my garage when I moved here. I found working with it a bit difficult, due to the arthritis I have in my hands, so I used old tree branches and twine to construct trellises for the rest of my crop. I didn’t want to put a lot of money into my trellises, as I wasn’t at all certain I was going to keep these plants alive long enough to see a harvest. They aren’t especially pretty, but they are doing the job. And, in their own way, they have a rustic charm that probably would be more attractive if I had more vines covering them.

I still don’t have enough shelling peas to put together a meal, but I’ve heard a great deal from other gardeners about what a treat these will be.

In the meantime, we’ve been pulling up some of those radishes planted between the beans and squash. MMmmm. Now my salads have some color and some spice. My son Jacob, who stopped by yesterday afternoon right after I pulled the first red globes out of the soil, declared them the juiciest radishes he’s ever tasted. In fact, he ate all of them, and I had to go out for more later in the day. It’s good to know they are a hit, because they are bountiful here and I’m going to need help consuming all of them.

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