Saturday, 9 November 2013

Yellow podded snow peas

We grow a few types of pea at the moment, one that gets a lot of nice comments from people are the yellow podded snow peas.

I have trouble seeing green pods in amongst green foliage, so I have to find ways to work around this.  You may not think that this would matter too much, but if you do not pick pods every day and one starts to get too old the yield is lowered considerably as the plant will stop putting energy into flowers/new pods and concentrate its energy on developing seeds.  The yellow pods are easy to see in amongst the green foliage, this makes harvest fast, easy, and increases productivity.

permaculture vegetables
Yellow podded snow peas and flowers
The yellow podded snow peas are an old heirloom variety of pea dating back to at least 1860.  It is likely that this variety of pea was one of the ones used by Gregor Mendel when he was doing his famous pea breeding and working out the basics of genetics and inheritance.  A lot of the peas I grow have at least one trait that Mendel used in his pea inheritance trials, I find it very interesting.  I also like how simple it is to breed peas, especially when the genetics behind them is relatively well understood and is mostly not too complex.

For some reason yellow snow peas never really took off and no significant breeding work has been done with them.  This lack of serious selective pressure means that they have a lot of potential for anyone who wishes to breed them into something better.  I am doing a little pea breeding trying to make an improved yellow podded pea, but that is a long way off being completed (if I do continue to pursue it).  I keep the original pure strain isolated and am always careful when saving seed as I think that this strain is worth preserving.  I know that there are a few other people in the country who are using these to breed superior yellow podded snow peas, hopefully one day they produce something great and distribute it.

As a producer of food the yellow podded snow pea is superb.  It reaches five or six feet tall so it needs to be grown with some support.  It is a very vigorous grower, it is fast-growing and its yields are abundant.  Each plant seems to yield dozens of pods even with minimal effort on my behalf.  These peas are unlike many varieties in that they produce several flowers at some leaf axils, yet produce only one flower at others.  I do not understand why they do this or how to breed for more uniformity in double flowering.  At this stage it doesn't matter much as they do produce a lot of pods.  As well as producing a lot of pods they are rather tall plants, so at the end of the season they provide me with a decent amount of pea mulch to use on the vegetable garden (unlike the Lacy Lady peas that I mention in another post).

yellow podded snow pea Australia
Yellow snow peas, so abundant and vigorous their weight broke the support stake
The plants are attractive from quite an early stage.  They have a pink/red splash in the leaf axils which is normally only seen in purple podded peas.  The leaves are also slightly yellow as opposed to the deep green of regular peas.  Once flowering has got underway, the stems, leaves and tendrils become increasingly yellow.  The flowers also seem to change colour as they grow older.  They start out pink, then go through purple to end up blue.  Again this is similar to the purple podded peas, but the yellow snow peas seem to be more vivid in their colour change.  The flowers are very beautiful, people often comment that they thought I was growing the ornamental 'sweet peas' rather than something edible.  It is nice to grow something so beautiful that produces so much food, it also means that if you were to grow them in town people would be less likely to steal them.  Once the flower has begun to fade the yellow pod emerges. 

permaculture vegetables Australia
Several flowers and a young yellow pod - note the pink stem and purple splash on the leaf axil
This variety is usually grown as a snow pea, but could be used as a shelling pea or a dry pea if you wanted to.  If you harvest the pods while they're still young and about half the size you would expect from a snow pea they are reasonably sweet and crunchy, so you can eat them raw straight off the plants or put them in a salad.  As the pods get bigger the colour fades to a pale greeny-yellow and they don't taste anywhere near as sweet .  I am told that they are still good for cooking at this stage, but am yet to try it as they are not so good raw so I normally either pick them small or let them go to seed.  Larger pods also start to develop string which is certainly not something that a great snow pea does.  Once the peas start bulging out visibly, you're better off leaving them to develop into seed for next year's crop.

Yellow podded pea foliage, slightly yellow leaves and slightly pink stem
The seeds themselves go through amazing colour changes as they dry out and finish up with speckles and patterns, all different.  I have even had one seed that was completely purple!  I will try my best to grow this purple seed next time and see if that trait continues.  The colours of the seeds are at their most intense a few days after harvest.  They look as though they've been splattered with ink.  The speckles are at their most sharply defined and intensely coloured when the pea is allowed to dry inside the pod, especially those parts which are in physical contact with the pod.  Any parts of the pea which are exposed to air (even inside the pod) develop a softer and more blurry speckling.  You get to see every pea within the pod developing its own unique pattern of coloured speckles while the peas themselves adopt various shades of green or tan.  I think that it is amazing and beautiful.

Yellow snow peas and their flowers - yellow pods are easy to see and harvest

Overall I am happy with this type of snow pea and will continue to grow it unless  something better comes along.  There may be more tasty varieties of snow peas out there, but none I have grown are as beautiful and as productive as these.  As long as we eat them small they taste just as good as any other type of snow pea.
Some of the yellow snow pea seeds

I do sell seeds of the yellow podded snow peas on my for sale page whenever I have some to spare. 

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