Monday, 27 July 2015

Peas - Purple Podded Irish Twins

Clarke's Beltony Blue

Aren't those lovely!? Clarke's Beltony Blue comes from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. At some point a Mrs Anderson donated them to the Heritage Seed Library (UK) with the information that they were grown on her great-grandfather's farm since at least 1850, and possibly as long as since 1815. Adaptive Seeds in Oregon got them from the Heritage Seed Library, and I got them from Adaptive seeds. Here we are. This is the first year I have tried these.

The vines grew to 6' tall, and started producing in mid-season; say about 70 days to maturity, and produced over a fairly long period of time (several weeks). The plants have lovely pink/mauve flowers, and the pods, as you see, are a rich purple, with peas of a light olive green. They were good healthy and robust growers, even considering their crowded conditions, although all the peas were produced 1 pod per node. Five to 7 peas per pod seems typical.

They turn starchy fairly quickly, and are not the sweetest of shelling peas. In fact, even when young I occasionally detected a note of bitterness to the raw peas. This seemed to disappear once they were cooked. I noticed the cooking water turned a little bluey-greyish, as if there were some purple compounds in the peas, although I could not actually see any. At their best, the texture is very smooth with a little more body than most peas, with a similarly smooth, rich flavour. I liked these better than Mr Ferdzy liked them; he did find them a bit on the starchy side. These are also a slightly faded moss green when cooked, fairly unlike most modern peas which have been bred for as dark a green as possible.

I can find no more information about their history than I have already written, but most old purple-podded peas were field peas, meant to be dried down and cooked into pea soup, aka pease pottage. I would speculate that these were selected out of some such old soup variety, and as such I am going to save any excess dried seeds I get from them and try them out as soup peas.

Carruthers' Purple Podded

All of the information regarding Clarke's Beltony Blue applies to Carruther's Purple Podded, with a few minor but significant differences. It too comes from Northern Ireland; County Down in this case. It too was donated to the Heritage Seed Library, by a gentleman by the name of Carruthers, who had acquired seed from a family gardener and grown it for 25 years before donating it. It too has roots back to the 19th century. I bought mine from Adaptive Seeds, who again got it from the Heritage Seed Library.

The physical description of the plants is essentially identical; I could not easily distinguish them if I grew them next to each other. The pods of Carruthers' are a little longer though, and more apt to contain at least 8 peas. They tend to be a little crowded, and so flattened at each side, and the pods seem a slightly deeper purple usually. I did find one plant that had 2 pods per node, so I will be saving that one as seed for sure. The two varieties are distinguishable as seeds, as the seeds are fairly different looking.

These are also a slightly better pea for eating fresh. I didn't note the bitterness I found in Clarke's Beltony Blue nearly so much, but again, they were noticeably better cooked than raw. So, overall I would rate Carruthers` Purple Podded as the better of the two peas. Unless Clarke`s Beltony Blue turns out to be uniquely wonderful as a dried soup-pea, I will grow Carruthers` again but not the Clarke`s.

Rebsie Fairholm is also a fan of Carruthers` Purple Podded peas, and I suspect her review of them has done much to give them their current modest popularity. Unfortunately, I don`t believe there is a Canadian supplier of either of these peas at this time.


Foothill Farm said...

Thanks for this Ferdzy. I'm doing purple peas this fall.

Ferdzy said...

Good luck! Need some seeds?