Grow your body fuel: Peas
Why Grow THEM?
PEAS are rich in health-benefiting phyto-nutrients, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants and relatively low in calories (100g of green peas provide only 81 calories and no cholesterol). They are an excellent source of folic acid and a very good source of ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
As soon as a pea is picked from the plant, the sugars inside it start to turn to starch, which means the flavour starts to deteriorate immediately. So, peas that are cooked immediately after picking will always taste nicer than the frozen alternative.
Sow 4cm deep. Dig a trench 15cm wide and 4cm deep and place the peas on the surface in two staggered rows at least 5cm apart. You can enjoy fresh peas from May to October if you do at least two sowings – late March and late May.
Peas are hungry plants – dig in well rotted manure or compost the previous winter and apply a good quality organic fertiliser just before sowing. Once they get going, however, you won't need to feed them as peas are nitrogen "fixers" – they can take nitrogen from the air. Peas need support. An effective support is to run lengths of chicken wire between posts with rows of peas on either side.
Peas are ready to harvest about three-to-four months after sowing. Harvest regularly to encourage pod production. Pinch off the growing tip of the plants when the first pods are ready – this will encourage the plant to focus on pod production. Once the plant is finished cut it down but leave the roots in the soil – the nitrogen that the plant has taken from the air is "fixed" in the soil.
GIY recommended varieties
Greenshaft, Delikett, Garnet
Peas can get powdery mildew in the summer, which appears on leaves – use resistant varieties.
* Peas can be sown effectively in lengths of old rain-guttering. Fill the gutter with potting compost and sow seeds 5cm apart. When the seedlings are 8cm tall, dig a trench in the soil about the same depth as the compost in the gutter and simply slide out the contents of the gutter in to the trench.
* Many GIYers grow peas just to eat the growing tips of the young plants, which are a trendy delicacy and look great in salads.
Watch GIY tutorials on growing vegetables at www.giyireland.com/videos.