Monday, June 18, 2007

Saving seed - the purple podded pea

When saving seed, nothing is as easy as peas and beans. Here is an example of a trade from a Bifucated Carrot, a blogger that I read (and admire) regularly. He's the foremost in political gardening I've read yet.

All the way from Amsterdam, he sent me a package of yellowish pea seeds - the infamous purple podded capucijner pea. In great anticipation, I planted them around my grape trellis (the immature vine will be trained into a weeping grape). The bunny cut some of the young shoots off before they were much past ankle high. I guarded them with green plastic netting (best defence against pests - barriers). They soft green leaves with purple at the stem joints, climbed vigorously. They are now topping the trellis and the pods are indeed a deep purple.

Here are some of the flowers:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Purple / Blue Capujiner Pea

The pea is intended on being used for soups. This year, I'm simply saving seed but next year, watch out! There will be a good sized plot devoted to them beside my favourite dried bean - Cherokee Trail of Tears. Incidentally, this is the bean that went in the other direction, from Ottawa to Amhersterdam.

How to save pea seeds:

The great thing about peas (and beans - much of the following counts for them too), is that they are inbreeders. That means, that they do not suffer a loss of vigour after several generations of saving them from a small gene pool. It still is desirable to save from more than one plant but it is 'possible' to save from just one. They also are self pollinating, meaning that theoretically you should have very little mixing and mingling between plants. The variety that you save should come true.

Accorinding to seed saving guru Suzanne Ashworth in Seed to Seed:

'Pea flowers are perfect and self-pollinating. Most references indicate that the
flowers are pollinated before opening and that crossing is very minimal... Pea
varities should be separated by a minimum of 50'. Blossom bagging or caging* can be used to assure seed uprity when it is necessary to grow different varities
side by side.'

*Bagging and caging are both techniques used to isolate self-pollinating species. Bags of remay cloth or other light weight breathable material can be placed around the developing flower heads of plants like tomatoes or peas so that no insect can get in to do a little cross pollination mischief. Caging is bagging on a big scale - cover the whole plant in a constructed cage lined with something like remay.

If you decide to save seed, pick the plants with the most desirable charateritics. If earliness is important to you, then instead of picking those first peas, save that plant (assuming it also shows other characteristics that you want) for seed. Mark off any plants that you want to save for seed and give them lots of attention.

Then wait until the pea pods are fully mature, even dry on the stalk. However, be careful to watch the weather. Once the peas are mature, they may sprout inside the pod if soaked with a lot of rain. If rain is expected, you can pick any pods that are mature to dry inside. (I write the above from my experience with beans). Careful to discard any peas that are damaged, or appear diseased.

Once they are FULLY dry, remove from pods, and then let the DRY MORE. Forgive the emphasis, but slightly wet seed that is placed in a sealed jar may rot, and will just keep less time.

Spread them out in some dry, warm place until they are really hard. Then store them in an airtight container, in a cold or cool dry place.

If you select carefully, your crops will become more and more acclimatized to your garden!


Another link about the purple podded pea - seed savers

Saving Seed - general

GeBaPro - school children run pea diversity project


Marc said...

Very informative. I am new to your blog and I am loving it! My blog is mostly about veggies and edible gardening as well.

I am always in search of other blogs like yours that deal with vegetable and fruit growing, so I started a new site that highlights and links to those blogs. It is called Veggie Garden Info, and I would love to add posts from Ottawa Hortiphilia to it if you would allow it.

You can email me at Thanks, and keep up the great gardening and blogging!

Patrick said...

Thanks for all the kind words!

On the subject of saving pea (and bean) seeds, it's worth mentioning there is a lot of conflicting information about the need for isolation. Even what you say is a little ambiguous!

Apparently there are some differences based on which side of the Atlantic you are on, with Europeans reporting more crosses than North Americans. I guess it really comes down to local conditions, in particular what insect pollinators your garden has.

For what it's worth the seeds I sent you were grown fairly close to a few other very distinct varieties, so you should keep an eye out for what should be very obvious crosses.

Keep in mind too that this pea is a bit of a gene-pool mix so there will be a lot of minor variations between the plants, and in particular about 10% of the pods will be white instead of purple.

I haven't planted your beans yet! I still hope to plant some this year, but if not then next year for sure.

Humpty Dumpty House said...

Excellent, most excellent.

I'm going to try to save some seeds this year, and this is most helpful. Thank you.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Yes, Patrick, the info does seem a bit ambiguous and I have heard that inSouth America (I believe) they have more problems with critters eating into the flowers and causing crosses that way as well!

Thanks also for bringing up the important point of rouging. When you see what seems like a potential cross that you did not want, or an off-type plant, be ruthless and pull it out. This is also a good idea with any weak, or disease prone plant.

By the way, Patrick's site has lots of good info on seed saving.

Patrick said...

Did you ever try the peas? A week or two ago I posted a few recipe ideas on Skippy's Vegetable Garden, if you are wondering how to cook them.