There is space in my garden to grow some annual plants amongst the trees, bushes, and herbaceous perennials and every year I grow different a number of annual nitrogen fixers – some ornamental like sweet peas and others edible like field beans, runner beans and different varieties of peas. Last year I grew Latvian soup peas purchased from The Real Seed Company. Their website describes them thus:
“The Latvian pea is again very productive and tall growing, so needs sturdy supports. It has really beautiful tan seeds speckled with a darker brown, obviously great for use in soups, but also good in other dishes that use dried pulses.”
I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree! They were easy to grow and had beautiful flowers** which attracted pollinating insects. A number of neighbours asked about them, thinking they were a variety of decorative sweet pea. The plants were productive and the peas were easy to dry and store.
I started one batch indoors in early spring and planted another directly into the ground in early summer. I planted them in clumps in between some establishing shrubs (guelder rose, wayfaring tree and Japanese wineberry) with the individual pea plants just a few inches apart. Despite being in close proximity to their shrubby neighbours they grew tall and I trained them up wigwams of sticks. However the summer gales we had blew them over, but that didn’t stop them growing or prevent the pods from ripening.
You can eat them as conventional peas, either raw or cooked, but they are rather starchy and this is not their intended use. The weather at the end of summer was warm and dry enough for many of the pods to dry on the vine, but after picking I let them dry in a warm sunny room for a few weeks to make sure. One of our grandchildren was very happy to spend time with me shelling the dry peas.
Despite all the pods looking absolutely dry on the outside, on opening them up some peas had gone a bit mouldy. We discarded these and put the other peas from these pods (which looked fine) to one side for planting next year. The remaining shelled peas from wholly good pods were saved in a jam jar – just the one! The jar has been in a cupboard from late summer to last week. A few peas had gone black, but most were fine, although I suspect that had they been stored much longer more might have deteriorated.
I made hummus with them in the summer and this week my partner has used them to make soup and a masala dish to accompany a vegetable curry. The soup recipe was previously used to make a pea, mushroom and vegetable soup using (Hodmedods) red fox carlin peas. In this recipe the red fox carlin peas make a wonderfully dark coloured and deep flavoured soup. The Latvian peas in the same recipe made a good soup, but it wasn’t as nice as the carlin peas. However that might have been my fault because I let the Latvian peas boil over all over the cooker, in the process losing a lot of valuable cooking liquid that should have gone into the soup mix and we had to top up with water instead. The masala recipe had too much turmeric in it, which was a bit disappointing, but we just mixed the masala in with a veg curry and that was okay.
It is interesting to note that the colour of the cooked peas is very different to their dried colour, but it is very similar to the lovely deep red that provides a lovely contrasting colour to pink in the flower.
For years I have accepted and in hope grown runner bean plants from a kind friend who raises more than he needs, but every year I am disappointed. I love runner beans but they don’t love my garden, so I shall take advantage of space saved and also look for other nooks to put as many Latvian soup peas in as possible.
Principle: Everything the forest gardener does takes full account of the whole of the forest garden ecosystem – what has happened, what is happening and what they intend for the future.
**Note: For some reason WordPress is not letting me upload photos to this post. I have managed to put some on Facebook though.