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Purple's the new color for edible-pod peas.

Purple's the new color for edible-pod peas

It's pea-planting time in the mild-winter West, and gardeners have more varieties to choose from than ever, including a strinkingly unusual purple-podded type.

In 1979, seed companies introduced "Sugar Snap'--a new pea you could eat pod and all. It was like Chinese edible-pod peas but plumber in both pea and pod.

In the fall of 1983, we reported a second generation of sugar snaps--dwarf plants only 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall. "Sugar Ann' won top place for flavor; "Super Sugar Mel' is larger, more resistant to powdery mildew, and more heat tolerant; "Sugar Bon' and "Sugar Pop' produce two weeks earlier.

In 1985 came a variety that required still less work--stringless "Sugar Daddy'. Especially productive, its 2- to 3-foot vines resist mildew. Since you don't have to string them as you do other edible-pod peas, the peas stay in the pods when you freeze them.

Now you can buy edible-pod peas in still another form--with bright purple pods. We sampled a few and found them quite tasty either raw or cooked. Peas inside are green; pods turn green when fully cooked.

Gardeners who like to grow good-looking edibles probably will make purple peas one of their favorites. Their gray-green foliage and two-tone pink-to-lavender flowers can twine 6 feet up posts and arbors, and their purple pods dangle over walks and flower borders.

Whatever type you choose, now is the time to plant in the mild-winter West. Even if cold weather slows plants down, you should have a good crop by March, before gardeners in cold-winter climates are able to plant.

Planting is easy

Prepare a bed of loose, well-drained soil. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep in heavy soil, an inch deep in sandy soil. Space them about 2 inches apart. Too much water can rot pea seeds; if rains haven't done the job for you, soak the soil thoroughly before planting, then avoid watering again until sprouts poke through.

Throughout the growing season, water as needed to keep soil moist. Use a soaker hose or nozzle, or a drip system; wet foliage tends to mildew.

You can let dwarf kinds sprawl, but pods are easier to pick and clean if you support the plants. Use tree trimmings poked in the ground, or a tomato cage. Start full-height kinds up a trellis of string or slender wire so that tendrils can grip firmly.

Plants can survive temperatures down to the low 20s, but flowers and pods freeze. Pluck damaged parts so plants will produce when weather warms to 60| to 70|.

For best flavor, harvest as soon as peas plump out the pod; smaller snap peas may taste starchy. Keep all ripe pods picked or production will slow down or stop.

Seeds of snap peas and Chinese pea pods are available from most seed racks and mail-order seed companies. You can order seeds of purple-podded peas (listed as "Blue Pod' in catalog) from Seeds Blum, Idaho City Stage, Boise, Idaho 83706 (price list free; catalog $2).

Photo: Purple-podded peas are easier to see on the vine; both pod and peas are edible. Pinkish purple flowers are also decorative
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Date:Nov 1, 1987
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