Know your peas

pea child hand

 

Frozen peas can never match the sweetness and tenderness of home-grown garden peas, especially when they’re eaten straight from the pod. What better way to introduce children or grandchildren to the delights of veggie gardening? Two other good reasons for growing peas are that they strengthen the immune system, being full of minerals and vitamin B, and they are good for the garden, too. They fix nitrogen in the soil, which benefits future crops.

Regular garden peas have the best nutritional content but need to be shelled. Climbing varieties are good for vertical gardening, especially in small gardens, and give a better yield per square metre. Bush varieties require very little attention, but yield less.

When to plant

Garden peas need warmth to germinate and cool weather for growing, but will not flower if the days are too short. Ideally they should be timed to grow in winter, and flower after the frost. Sowing times vary from region to region and sowing guides are just that – guides. Work out your best time to sow based on your own microclimate. Peas need plenty of winter sun and fertile, well-composted soil that has been deeply dug over. If possible, work lime into the soil 3-4 weeks before planting.

 

Planting and growing guide

● Sow in rows directly into the ground, or into pots for transplanting later.

● Keep soil moist during germination, but once established do not overwater as cold, wet soil encourages damping off.

● Sow batches of seed every 2-3 weeks for an extended supply.

● Support bushy plants by drawing up the soil around the stem.

● Mulch plants to keep the soil moist.

● Do not overfeed or over-water during the early growth stages because this produces too many leaves and not enough flowers.

● Once flowering starts, water more frequently and, if necessary, feed weekly with a liquid fertiliser.

 

Harvesting

Peas should be ready for picking within three months. The more you pick, the better they produce. For best nutritional value, eat

peas as soon as possible after picking.

 

Meat pies with pea and potato mash

The Australians love their meat pies, and their traditional version contains a tasty meat and gravy mixture. The addition of mushy peas is a particular speciality of the late night pie cart called Harry’s Café de Wheels, to be found in the suburb of Woolloomooloo, Sydney. An icon in Australia since 1945, this pie cart is now world famous. This recipe, a variation on the traditional recipe, is for an open pie with a pea and mash mix for the topping, and serves four.

500g minced beef

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon beef stock powder

1 tablespoon cornflour

½ cup water

2 tablespoons butter

Readymade shortcrust pastry

1 cup peas

3 potatoes, peeled and cubed

 

Method

Add the butter to a pan and add the onion. Sauté for a few minutes until soft, then add the minced beef and brown it all over. Mix the tomato paste, stock powder, cornflour and water together and add to the beef mixture. Simmer until thickened then set aside. Fill four pie or tart moulds with shortcrust pastry and blind bake at 200°C for 10 minutes. Boil the potatoes, drain and mash. Boil or microwave the peas until tender. Blend the peas and add to the mashed potatoes with a dollop of butter and plenty of salt and pepper. To serve, fill the pastry cases with minced beef and top with the pea and mash mixture.

(Note: For a vegetarian meal, the minced beef can be replaced with soya mince and the beef stock can be substituted with onion soup powder)

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