Written by Dale Richardson - Updated: June 23, 2023
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Mushy peas are a traditional British meal. Wasabi peas are a favourite spicy snack food. Both of these dishes and more are made from Marrowfat peas, and we are going to learn how to grow this variety in your home garden.
Marrowfat peas are grown similar to the garden pea. But unlike their freshly eaten cousin, the Marrowfat are left to mature on the vine to produce large, starchy dried peas. They are a long-season vegetable that needs time to reach full maturity, but, like all peas, they are easy to cultivate and harvest.
If you are already a master at growing garden peas, the Marrowfat variety will add a new aspect to your garden. If you are a beginner, they are easy to grow. Whatever your experience, let's look at how to grow Marrowfat peas in your garden.
Image by Dave Crosby
Though they are grown the same, Marrowfat peas are opposite garden peas in one important aspect: the sugar to starch ratio. Marrowfat are a variety of pea that produces a large and starchy pea that are not ideal for eating raw but have been cooked for hundreds of years.
There is some discrepancy about how Marrowfat peas made their way to England and the western world. Some say they were introduced by the Japanese about 100 years ago. However, the term "Marrowfat" was first recorded in England in the 1730s, so it is possible these have been a staple in the British diet for centuries. Nowadays, Marrowfat peas are grown as a field crop in many countries, and they are exported to create ethnic dishes around the globe.
Marrowfat peas can make a great addition to the home garden by following these steps.
Read Next: How to grow peas all year long.
Marrowfat pea seeds can sometimes be difficult to find, as they are not nearly as common as the garden varieties. Check with your local garden centre, or try an online company if none of your local centres carry them. Alternatively, the boxes of dried Marrowfat peas you buy from the grocery store will usually grow very well. And they are usually cheaper, too.
Marrowfat peas like a sunny spot (though they tolerate shade well) with well-drained soil that has been lightly worked. Since they have a long growing season and bear their pods until maturity, they benefit from lots of compost or manure added to their bed.
For direct sowing, sow the seeds from March until June depending on your location. They will tolerate some frost at the beginning like garden peas, but frost near harvest time can be damageing to the pods. They can be started indoors quite easily if you need to get an extra jump start on the growing season. ( Empty toilet paper tubes make excellent pots to germinate your Marrowfat peas).
Plant the seeds 5cm (2 inches) deep with 5cm to 10cm (2-4 inches) between the seeds. You should thin the seedlings to a least twice that distance after germination so the mature plants will have room to grow. Space your rows about 60cm (24 inches) apart. The seeds will germinate in around 7 to 10 days.
Like most pea vines, Marrowfat peas are considered to have poor, or low, standability. This means they will not hold themselves erect. As a field crop, Marrowfat peas will sprawl about the field and entwine together to hold themselves up. While this can be an effective method to replicate in your home garden , it is more common to provide pea netting or other trellising to hold them up.
Marrowfat peas are a legume, so they will improve the soil through nitrogen fixation. They will grow well throughout the year without amendments, especially if well-rotted compost was added at planting time. They like moist soil, and watering them in dry, hot weather will help with pea growth. A layer of natural mulch, such as wood chips or straw, will help hold moisture near the roots and keep the plants cool throughout the summer. Be careful not to over-water them, however, as they will easily rot in wet or heavy soils.
Read Next: The pros and cons of a west-facing garden.
From the time of sowing, Marrowfat peas are ready for harvest after 80 to 115 days, depending on the variety. Harvest your dried pods when the peas are firm and hard. The longer the plants have to mature, the larger, starchier, and drier your peas will be. In other words, the perfect Marrowfat ready for cooking.
The best way to eat Marrowfat peas raw is to eat the tender shoots. Here are some simple steps to grow the succulent shoots.
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