Thursday, July 1, 2010

Peas, Please

It's the height of pea season in New Hampshire, which is a very good time. I have been enjoying my own snow peas as well as Vanessa's sugar snap peas this past week. You can plant peas in late April or early May here. The seed guides indicate "as soon as the ground can be worked" but I tend to plant whenever the spirit moves me; this year I planted mid-May. For having gone to science "do things by the book" school for four years, my gardening ethic is rather lackadaisical.

Peas are fantastically tasty, raw or cooked. I especially like sugar snap peas straight from the vine, as they've got a great crunch raw. Adam is not a fan of raw peas, so I put snow peas in with some potstickers for a picnic dinner. I also tried doing a quick 90-second steam in the microwave and then rinsing the snow peas in cold water before chopping them for a green salad. I was surprised at the difference in flavor with that short amount of cooking - it definitely mellows out the flavor.

I have experimented with several types of pea fences, although I did not follow the scientific method. (That would be a great science fair project - which pea fence provides best support?) Peas naturally vine and trellis themselves, wrapping thin yet strong tendrils around anything they come in contact with. (Botany Quiz - What's the name for this differential growth habit stimulated by plants "feeling" a surface? - the answer is at the bottom of this post. Bonus points if you can remember which plant hormones are responsible for this!!)

I've tried two different trellis systems this year. One is a line of vertical tree saplings with twine running between the saplings. The other is a wattle made out of crisscrossed branches. There are pros and cons to both, but both are now too short! I've had to re-purpose part of my pole bean trellis for the pea plants. The peas are rapidly maturing, and I'll probably pull them out this weekend - peas do not take well to 90-degree heat. For the second planting this fall and the years to come, I may need to follow my some "by-the-book" advice and set up a regularly-spaced wide mesh netting for the peas that's at least 4 ft tall.

Quiz answers: this growth habit is called thigmotropism - and the hormones responsible are our dear old friends, the auxins.

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