Easy peasy seed saving - peas

In this series, we discuss how to save your own organic seeds. Once you dip into the seed saving world, you realise how satisfying and easy it can be. Tomatoes, peas and French beans, for instance, are a great place to start. Not only are you keeping yourself in organic produce, year on year - you're also saving money!

We also look at some of the wonderful heritage varieties available. If taste and individuality are your aims, then why not support our Heritage Seed Library? We conserve many varieties that are no longer widely available. Often they are rejected as 'uncommercial'. Many are local, such as the Stafford broad bean, Stoke lettuce and English Winter Leamington cauliflower.

Year on year, HSL staff continue the growing cycle of seed to plant, harvest to seed, ensuring that these old heritage varieties don't disappear.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Heritage Seed Library, it costs just an additional £1.50 a month, on top of your Garden Organic membership. In doing so, you will be supporting our vital work of maintaining rare heritage plants - and you can choose up to 6 packets of seed free each year!

How easy is it to save seeds?

With some vegetables, such as tomatoes and peas, it is very simple and you save seeds from ripened fruit each year.

With others, such as runner beans and pumpkins, you need to be a bit careful to prevent any cross-pollination from other plants to keep your own variety pure. If, for instance, your runner bean flower is pollinated by a bee from your neighbour’s plants (which are a different type of runner bean) you cannot predict what sort of bean you will grow next year. It could be a mix of the two. To help you, read more in our Seed Saving Guidelines.

So, let’s start with the easy peasy seed savers:

Peas Pisum Sativum

Peas are so easy to sow and grow - even a bag of dried ones from the supermarket will probably germinate. But why not save your own organic ones? First sow them thickly, and gradually thin by cutting and eating the superfluous green shoots in salads. Leave the remaining plants to grow bushy and you will be picking pea pods throughout the summer. Keep some on the plant to dry, and you'll have your own supply to plant next year.

Harvesting

Peas mature very quickly and can be left on the vine to dry. If there is a risk of frost to a crop that is almost mature, lift the entire plants and hang them inside somewhere warm until the pods are completely dried.

Next steps ….

  1. Pop the peas (seeds) out of the pod by hand.
  2. Lay them out to dry further and remove any that are damaged or discoloured.
  3. Store in a cool, dry place. Pea seeds should last in storage for at least three years.

See here for a simple guide on how to grow peas.

Heritage Varieties

These beauties are available exclusively to HSL members. If you are interested in becoming a member of the Heritage Seed Library, it costs just an additional £1.50 a month, on top of your Garden Organic membership.

Champion of England

champion

This English marrowfat pea was bred in 1843 as ‘Fairbeards’ Champion of England’ and was judged the best pea by the Journal of Horticulture in 1876. Opinion is unanimous on this one – it’s big (over 1.8m) and needs strong support. The pods are large, with 8-9 sweet and delicious peas packed into each one.

Clarke’s Beltony Blue

champion

Donated by Mrs Anderson, this heirloom variety has been grown on her great grandfather's farm in Co. Tyrone since at least 1850 (but possibly as far back as 1815). This tall (around 160cm), prolific and vigorous pea produces beautiful pale pink and rich maroon flowers followed by a heavy crop of purple pods. Sweet and smooth flavour.

Robinson

champion

Our donor has been growing these since the 1950s, after acquiring seeds from a Mr Robinson, who had obtained them in Scotland. The vigorous plants (>2m) produce long, slim, slightly curved pods over a long season. Extraordinarily sweet, retaining their flavour even when frozen. Garden Organic Trustee, Adam Alexander, says, “The finest pea I grow.”

Tutankhamun

champion

Thought to originate from the garden of Lord Carnarvon at Highclere Castle, Berkshire - who, along with Howard Carter, discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in November 1922. Could this variety be a descendant of the peas allegedly taken from the tomb? A tall pea (1.5-1.8m) that produces its white flowers and pods of sweet tasting peas at the top of the plants, making them easy to pick.

Did you know …..

  • There are three different types of peas. Smooth-seeded peas are starchier and hardier than wrinkled-seeded peas; peas in an edible pod are more commonly known as sugar peas or mangetouts.
  • Pea flowers are self-pollinating. The flowers open early in the morning and do not shut. The anthers shed pollen the night before the flower opens, but they need 'shaking' to reach the stigma. This is usually done by the wind.
  • Delicate green peas were introduced to the court of Louis XIV of France in January 1660, where they became the rage of all the French aristocrats. Before that, dried 'field' peas were eaten throughout Europe.