Friday, July 18, 2008

pisum sativum

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I've been wanting to tell you about my peas since I planted them this past April. I have been photographing them along the way...since they were few inches high. I am now harvesting them!

Almost ten years ago, there was a little seed company called Shepards Seeds. They were brought out by Whiteflower farm, and do not offer the same vegetable seed variety that they once did. I used to order from Shepards, and one year I brought a small packet of seed that was marked Norli.

The Norli is a nice snow pea, tall growing, with a purple flower. I saved the seed from it. I'm glad I did because I have had trouble finding the same seed in catalogues and I'm not sure why more growers don't carry it. The closest I can find is something called carouby de Maussane.

Anyway...this year I had decided to grow the Norli pea again, to replenish my seed bank which was getting low. I will enjoy some fresh picked for eating, but mainly this crop is for seed.

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Because Norli is a tall vine, I needed supports. I take a walk in the early spring and find and collect branches from the river birch that have suffered from winter kill. I have used black nylon pea trellis that you can buy in the store...but I really don't like the way it looks, and I hate taking it down. With the branch method, I can pull up everything when the peas are finished out, and toss everything into the compost.

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The branches are placed in the soil, next to the peas when they are about 2-3" tall.

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I don't even have to train the vines, the tendrils seem to know exactly what to do.

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Pea flowers are amazing to me. They pollinate themselves. The pollination is complete before the flower opens. Bee-less.

Mendel used them as his specimen for his published work Experiments in Plant Hybridization.

I'm trying hard to understand the down side of the self pollination, which I think might be that sooner or later genetic errors will be passed down, and the plants will weaken. I figure I have planted at least the 4th generation of my Norli, and so far they look pretty good.

So, having now enjoyed the first harvest, I will pick with discretion, and save the rest for the bank.

10 comments:

Phiala said...

There's not much of a down-side for garden plants since they are in a carefully-tended plot that's fairly similar from one garden to the next. That way all of the offspring are very similar to their parent, a plant that did well under those same conditions

For plants out in the wild, though, cross-pollination helps to make sure that the next generation has a wide range of types of plants, so that whatever conditions are actually available, some members of the species will survive and reproduce.

Um, bad analogy. If you are going to the beach in the summer, you can predict that it will be hot and sunny every day, and can only pack shorts and swimsuits. Conditions are predictable, so you don't need a lot of variety available.

But if you're going to the mountains in the spring, it might be hot, it might be rainy, it might snow. You need to pack a wide variety of stuff, so that you have something that matches the actual conditions that occur, even though you may not use everything you take.

Judy said...

Pea green with envy as I didn't get any planted this year! Maybe a fall crop if I can find space. Right now the squash is eating the garden!!

Romi said...

Yum! I love fresh peas. Nothing like them. :)

elizabeth said...

You are so cool.

Donna B said...

Carouby de Maussane is in my garden...I love the pretty flowers. Your Norli looks very similar... have you tried them both? I love your pea supports! I think I will try that!

Joanne said...

My husband the butterfly geneticist grows snow peas and snap peas every year! He really digs Mendel. He does a lab with peas with his Genetics students. He wanted to name Harry the dog Mendel. I told him there were limits. Peas are good. Calling "Mendel" into the backyard? Maybe a little too weird for me...maybe I'll grow into it! Thanks for sharing the peas with us!

judy said...

Years ago I used branches. It looked great. I don't remember why I switched to chicken wire and poles. Probably speed. Next year, I think I'll do your branch method again. Thanks.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

My DB makes a great stirfry with snow peas. Yummm.

Leigh said...

I love your trellises. Excellent idea. Your photos are excellent too, as always!

Wanda said...

Love the trellis! Next year.

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