The humble pea is one plant that doesn't get the recognition it deserves. It may not be mighty, or flashy, or huge. But the pea plant grows quickly and produces early in the year, yielding a delicious natural source of protein and carbs without too much effort from the gardener. So let's hear it for the pea!
The pea flower, seen most commonly around May, is a folded lopsided mass of soft petals, usually white or pink. It doesn't last long and isn't commercially viable, but gardens all over are full of peas (both edible and floral varieties). Those lucky enough to spend time around pea plants will attest to their aesthetic and aromatic benefits.
This one, photographed just minutes ago in my back yard, is a common heirloom type that produces sweet tender peas, great for snacking on fresh or steaming up for dinner.
Here they are last summer, before being dried and put away until planting in the spring:
Hopefully that's how things will look in just a couple weeks! Right now, we're growing fast, and pumping out lots of flowers:
The pea has many tricks up its sleeve.
Each cluster of flowers will be a cluster of pods, each with several peas. Each of those peas can become an entire new plant.
The pea grows quickly as long as it isn't too hot or dry, making it a quintessential spring crop.
Its strategy is quantity over quality. Stems, leaves, tendrils, and flowers all over the place. It works!
With heirloom seeds containing ancient genetics slowly adapted over hundreds of generations, a little soil and water, and a bit of patience, I can produce buckets of organic produce that is loaded with protein and vitamins. And I can save some of the seeds and do it over and over again - food sustainability.
And we must not forget... as legumes, pea plants "fix" (convert to a useful form) nitrogen from the air, with their roots. Growing peas can help to replenish the soil!
Peas are easy to grow, pretty, nutritious, delicious, and they help the rest of your garden!
So think about that, next time your mom (or wife) says "eat your peas".