Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra
Novelty-seeking veggie gardeners have plenty of exciting options to choose from with trendy crops, such as gourmet greens and tomatoes. But peas? Hardly trendy, and hardly a plethora of options to choose from, at least in most catalogs: a few snap peas, a couple of snow peas, and maybe a few varieties of shelling types. I suppose it’s not really necessary for peas to be exciting, appearance-wise; once you experience the flavor of fresh-picked peas straight from (or, even better, right in) the garden, you hardly care what they look like. But if you enjoy trying something different, there are two out-of-the-ordinary varieties worth tracking down.
The first is an edible-podded type with pretty yellow pods. It’s sold under a few different names: Seed Savers Exchange, for instance, lists it as ‘Golden Sweet’, while Kitchen Garden Seeds sells it as ‘Golden India’.
As long as you see “golden” somewhere in the name, you’ll probably get the right thing.
The pods are almost too pretty to pick, but don’t let that stop you, because they have a very good crunch and sweet flavor. The purple-pink flowers are very attractive, as well.
Another “something different” in the pea world is the blue-podded pea. You’ll usually find this very old variety listed as ‘Blauwschokkers’ (as in Seed Savers Exchange), ‘Blauschokker’ (as in Kitchen Garden Seeds), or some other variant of that spelling.
It’s mainly grown for use as a dried pea, but the very young pods aren’t bad eaten whole, or you can shell the ripe peas for fresh use instead of drying. Or, simply enjoy the purple-flowered, 4- to 6-foot-tall vines as an ornamental, either alone or paired with another climber.