Friday, 17 June 2016
As I've mentioned before, we plant 2 beds with determinate peas as early in the spring as we can. They should then produce heavily for 2 weeks in the middle of June, after which they are pulled out and replaced with short season dry beans for the rest of the season. Thus we get 2 crops from 1 bed; well, okay, 2 beds. The peas we have been using are Strike, which are rated at 55 days to maturity - the fastest pea we know.
This year we planted a section of Knight. Knight is also very early, rated at 59 days to maturity. We thought that since they were that close, they were worth a try. So far though, we are more than 4 days past our first picking of Strike and Knight has only produced a few pods of mature peas (with many more plainly to come). But wow, what pods!
The pods of Knight are almost twice as long as the pods of Strike. (The pod nearest the peony* is a Strike, for comparison.) There aren't twice as many peas though. Eight seems typical, although as they get going I can hope for up to 10. The peas are a little larger, very similar in colour even though Knight as a plant is a pale green all over where Strike is a very deep blue-green. The plants definitely grow longer, and have much denser leaves. They might benefit from some pea sticks, which is a bit of a pain for half-season peas. They are doing alright without any. I found them to be very tasty and tender, and a little sweeter than the Strike. Of course I don't know how they freeze yet.
Knight peas were bred by Dr. Gerald A. Marx at Cornell University in New York state. They should have tolerance to common wilt, powdery mildew (uh huh, we'll see) and some of the mosaic viruses. I can't find an exact date of introduction, but it would have been some time between 1970 and 1988.
There were (are?) a number of older peas with "Knight" included in the name, such as Knight's Dwarf White Champion of England named after a late 18th - early 19th century pea breeder, Thomas Andrew Knight, but as far as I can see this is the only pea which is simply called Knight. Perhaps Dr. Marx named his pea after Thomas Knight.
So far these are good and interesting enough that we hope to continue to grow them. The main question is whether they will be finished by June 30, which is the last possible date... It seems possible, and given their larger size, more peas per pod, and very good flavour I'm really rooting for them. Of course, if you are not double cropping, you can just grow them! In which case they are highly recommended.
*And the peony is Athelstane in case you wanted to know.