Sunday, 3 June 2007
Ooh look, another heritage pea
Now, you probably won't have seen one like this before. I certainly haven't.
It showed up in the Heritage Seed Library catalogue this year, an heirloom pea which doesn't really have a name and is just known as Salmon Flowered. "I grow them as a curiosity," its donor says. I couldn't resist including it in my precious six choices. It differs from all the other pea varieties I know in the colour of its flowers, which as you can see are two-tone pink, the standard petal being a very pale pink, almost white. And very elegant flowers they are too. Not huge, but compact and well formed and very pretty.
But it has another peculiarity. It has enormously fat stems which are ridged and succulent, like a sweet pea. And it also has a sweet pea growth habit, producing branches which come out from the main stem at right angles, and bearing its flowers all in a gigantic bunch at the top instead of singly or doubly at each leaf node like a culinary pea. But it has the leaves of a culinary pea. (I have yet to eat its peas, but I'll let you know.)
To look at it, I'd say it was probably made by a cross between a sweet pea and a culinary one. I don't know whether such a thing is biologically possible, because they are not even in the same genus let alone the same species. But that sure is what it looks like. And I'm itching to cross a few myself now just to see if it works.
I'm also using it for one of my sideline breeding projects. Although the main focus of this year's crop is to produce a stock of seed so that I can continue growing Salmon Flowered in future years (and hopefully share it with others), I'm making use of some of its abundant pollen by hand-crossing it with another pea variety, Alderman. That's a conventional white-flowered pea, albeit a tall one, with exceptional vigour and knockout flavour. By crossing these two I'll create a hybrid, and then in the next generation I'll backcross that hybrid with Alderman again. I may need to do that several times. The idea is to keep most of the existing characteristics of Alderman but introduce the pink flower genes into it. I'm also trying the same thing with Ne Plus Ultra.