‘Peas will break your heart,’ a chap on my last allotment told me as I gaily sowed a couple of rows in my rookie year as an allotmenteer. Bob had a few choice other comments to make about my attempts as a gardener and although at the time I didn’t take them too kindly, I still think about them today so they must have had impact.
In many ways he was right. I have attempted peas pretty much every year and although I’ve had a few stunning little green pearls to ‘test’ as I wandered round, they never made it off the plot.
This year I didn’t really sow the peas to harvest them. I was given some Meteor seeds and grew them mainly because I had some spare beds I didn’t want to get covered with weeds. My plan was to dig them in for the nitrogen or, if they came to anything at all, just have a few to nibble.
Incredibly, however, I have discovered peas are like love. As soon as you stop caring, they arrive in bountiful waves. Perhaps it was the wet spring that brought peas and quiet in such glory but by May they were green and lush.
They swelled, getting fatter and greener as I lavished attention on them but, as with love, it’s possible to take the eye off the proverbial ball. Other things got in the way. I didn’t make the time. The heatwave arrived and my tender, cool-weather legumes suffered. Last weekend I was forced to embark on a last-ditch attempt to save the harvest.
Dad was visiting (Father’s Day, of course…) and I enlisted him and my sister, a notable pea-snaffler, to help gather and shell. It was, at last, a massive harvest, though a day later it would have been good for nothing but pease pottage.
At last – my first-ever proper pea harvest! We ate peas with lunch, a giant bag went in the freezer and I sent Dad and Sis home with plenty too.
Was it an Event? Of course it was – you never forget your first time. But unlike the dainty, sweet flavour-bombs I had illicitly enjoyed in former years, these were grown up, strong-flavoured, hard and tough. Like love, I guess. Nice enough – nourishing and ultimately satisfying – but those exciting moments of earlier sweetness are absent and, if you fail to tend them properly, they wilt.
I’m not sure if it was the variety or just the heatwave over-ripening them before I could harvest. There’s only one way to find out. Peas may break your heart but if you get it right, they are sweeter than candy.