Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Story about Field Peas

After reading several posts by Kris at Georgia Home Garden about field peas, I decided to hunt some field peas down to fill the beds when I remove the corn. I have gotten interested in heirloom seeds, so I spent a good bit of time looking through different sites, trying to find an unusual variety to (possibly) preserve. The plan was to plant some unusual variety of cowpea (field peas, crowder peas, cream peas, Southern cowpeas--as far as I can tell these names represent the same type of plants.) I would grow it, and if my family and I liked it, I would save it, and possibly offer it on Seed Savers Exchange.

I spent several hours on different websites looking for something that sounded "just right." I asked Kris his opinion, and considered that as well. All in all, I spent too much time on the idea of field peas. Then (Yes, I agree, it was too late. I should have asked my husband first.) Then I asked Greg. He said, "I love Pink Eye Purple Hull peas." Well. I should have just asked him. Then I wouldn't have spent so much time trying to find some other variety.

So I placed an order with St. Clare Seeds for Pink Eye Purple Hulls. After I received my packet of seeds, I decided that I really would need more seeds than that, so I placed another order for more of the same seeds. The second time, St. Clare Seeds sent me a free packet of Mississippi Cream Cowpeas.

I had a few bare spots in the Twenty Foot Garden. On a whim, I planted the Mississippi Cream peas in those spots. I planted approximately 40 seeds. I gave the rest to my children. They "planted" them around the yard.

I was surprised and pleased at how quickly they grew. I had almost 100% germination.

Now to the really interesting part of this story. I had never heard of these beans. I planted them on a whim.

My mother-in-law came by and wanted to see the garden. I showed her what I had, explaining what everything was. I mentioned the name "Mississippi Cream peas," and she squealed. I have never heard her make that sound. I looked at her sideways. What did that sound mean?

She explained, "My Granny Johnson loved Cream Peas. They didn't sell them in Mobile. Every year she would make us (meaning my father-in-law and her) go back to Andalusia to get a bushel of Cream Peas."

It really moved her that I was growing these beans that reminded her of her Granny Johnson.

Now I feel that the Lord gave me a gift. Free beans, yes, but more than that. A story of my kids' heritage. A story I would never have heard if I had not planted these beans.

A side note about this: those beans were rare in the Mobile, Alabama in the 1990's when her grandmother died, according to my mother-in-law. She has personally not eaten them at all or seen them offered for sale since her Granny Johnson died. Even way back then, the beans were rare. I did a search of these beans on the Seed Savers Exchange 2012 Yearbook. They are not listed at all. Not one member of the Seed Savers Exchange has Mississippi Cream Peas on offer. I will list mine if I get enough.

Please, if you have seed that can be saved, consider saving it. It's not very hard, and the variety may not be available if you don't help. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

On My Mind-- Scarlet Runners

I harvested a dinner plate full of Scarlet Runner beans. They were big--as long as my children's heads. They felt like the beans were mature inside. When I peeled them (which was no easy feat, by the way), the beans were still teeny. I ended up with about 2 tablespoons of beans. They tasted okay when I cooked them, but that is really a lot of trouble for not much.

Later, I harvested some of the smaller beans and tried them as green beans. They feel sticky on the tongue, even after cooking. It was quite uncomfortable for me.

They have been coming in almost daily, but I can't bear to eat them. I don't like them shelled and I don't like them cooked like green beans. Now I am dithering about what to do with these plants. I like the beauty of the flowers. I like that hummingbirds and bumblebees stop by and drink nectar from them. But the taste appalls me.

I pulled all the Scarlet Runner Beans from my Twenty Foot Garden. I decided that they weren't worth the space back there. I just don't know what to do with the ones in the front yard garden.