Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra
I’m always on the hunt for plants that really earn their space in the garden, so when I ran across a listing for asparagus pea (Tetragonolobus purpurea; also known as Lotus tetragonolobus), I knew I had to try it.
The description said that the plants liked heat, so I gave them a head start by sowing the seeds indoors on a heat mat in March and set them out about 1 foot apart in the third week in May. They sat there for about two weeks, then they starting shriveling up one by one. By mid-July, there were only two plants left, but they really were beauties, eventually dotted with tiny but intense, deep red flowers against pale green leaves.
By late summer, the flowers started maturing into four-winged pods. The first one I tried was woody and inedible (I guess I picked it too late), so I tried a smaller one and found it quite crunchy and tasty. By frost, I’d gotten probably 8 pods in total: nice for occasional snacking but hardly qualifying as a harvest.
The original seed description suggested supplying a trellis to support the plants, so I’d done that. They didn’t climb, though; the trellising mostly just served to prop up the shoots, which otherwise would have stayed close to the ground.
I do plan to grow asparagus pea again, just because it’s so pretty, though I don’t expect to pick much. I think it’s plenty hot enough around here in the summer, but I guess the plants want even more heat than our southeastern Pennsylvania summer can provide. If any of you out there have grown asparagus pea successfully, I’d love to know how it performed for you and whether you started it indoors or direct-sowed it. If you haven’t grown it but want to try for yourself, you can get the seeds from Thompson & Morgan or Veseys Seeds.