Friday, 6 June 2008

What do you get when you cross a purple-podded pea with a yellow-podded pea?


Well the answer is mostly GREEN podded peas, actually. That's something I hadn't predicted and I don't quite know why it's happening.

You also of course get some yellow podders and purple podders as the genes segregate out. The photo above shows some Golden Sweet x Desiree F2 plants ... these are siblings from the same batch of seeds and have segregated into yellows and purples (as well as greens).

And then this suddenly shows up:


This is one of my Golden Sweet x Carruthers' Purple Podded F2 plants. I noticed it had slightly different colouring from the others when the flower buds appeared. The sepals were cream-coloured which is a sure sign that yellow pods will follow, but they were also liberally flushed with pinky red.

When the first flower died off and the pod emerged, it was indeed yellow. But when it was a day or two old it started to develop a peachy blush down one edge. The colour seemed to be darkening by the hour and I wondered how far it would go. Would it stay peachy and localised, or fill in the whole pod?

The next day it had turned fiery orange.


I mentioned in my Yellow Sugarsnap post (below) that one of the joys of home plant breeding is the unexpected new phenotypes, unique traits created by the great gene lottery. But this is not just a new phenotype, it appears to be a completely new colour break. I don't know of any other peas this colour anywhere in the world. How exciting is that?!

It may be a colour I've never seen before, but it's easy enough to explain how it came about. Purple podded peas start off green, with the purple developing gradually after a few days. Sometimes the purple fills the whole pod, sometimes it retains a bit of the green. But essentially you don't get true purple pods, they're always green pods with a purple overlay. The purple colour is made by a common and naturally occurring plant pigment, anthocyanin. It can create pinks, reds, violets, purples, blues and blacks, in various parts of the plant.

All that's happened here is that the gene for yellow pods has met up and made a harmonious partnership with the gene for anthocyanin-in-the-pods. In other words, it's a normal purple podded pea but instead of having the usual green base, it has a yellow base. And the yellow shines through from underneath and makes it go red instead of purple.

And when I say RED ...


I bloody mean it. No Photoshopping here. These pods are deep, rich, blood red!

I hope this illustrates how incredibly worthwhile garden plant breeding really is. I was put off plant breeding for years because I'd always read that you need to grow thousands of plants to be in with a chance of getting anything useful out of it, and that it takes years and years and years of work. But that's bollocks, as you can see. Carol Deppe changed all that with her radical claim that you can do plant breeding on any scale and it really isn't difficult. She's absolutely right. This amazing pod colour has emerged spontaneously from a project which I started barely 12 months ago. All I did was a single round of hand-pollinations, and saved and grew the seed for two generations (all in the space of a year). And I didn't have to grow thousands of plants ... in fact I only have sixteen.

I've made two previous posts with instructions for hand-pollinating peas, if anyone wants to give it a go ... here and here.

If this doesn't get you reaching for your pollinating scalpel I dunno what will ... !

(Oh, and this pic was taken with the new Nikon.)

26 comments:

Daphne said...

Wow that is so beautiful. I've never thought that purple podded peas are very pretty. I stick to the green ones. But those red ones are stunning.

Catofstripes said...

That really is something! Congratulations, I hope you can breed a true strain from it.

And I hope it tastes good!

Carrie said...

Wow - that is just so darn exciting! I may have to go breed some plants of my own now... You've really inspired me! :)

Magic Cochin said...

Oooooo! isn't that a gorgeous colour! I love the way the red develops.

Celia

Rebsie Fairholm said...

Thanks everyone. I'm reasonably optimistic that I can get a true breeding strain from it, since the genes involved all assort independently. Flavour is another matter ... and whether it keeps any of its colour after cooking ... but I'm hoping for the best!

A Sea Change said...

Wow, that's so fabulous!

GardenGirl said...

wow wow wow, that's SO cool! Me too me too! Guess what game I'll be playing next year!

Also, curious about the blue flower just in the edge of the first picture of the red peapods where the colour is just starting to show. Do you really have blue pea flowers?

Rebsie Fairholm said...

Yes that is a blue pea flower, and it's on the red-podded plant. Any pea that has bicolour purple and maroon flowers will turn blue as the flowers fade. So they're saggy, but beautiful. If you scroll down a bit to the Yellow Sugarsnap pictures you'll see a couple of flowers there which are just starting to turn blue.

I only have one variety which goes blue while the flowers are still in their prime, and that's Kent Blue. Not easy to get hold of, but I may be able to save enough seed from mine to do a seed swap next year.

Christina said...

Gasp. Oh my. Those are spectacular.

barkingdog said...

Wow..that is exciting! That really is a beautiful pea - I may have a go myself next year!

Hedgewitch said...

WOW!! blood-red peas.. amazing!!

Anna said...

Just found your blog after looking for pictures for the Golden Sweet pea (was wondering what colour the flowers would be as they hadn't opened yet)...

And I'm fascinated!

I'm growing peas for the first time this year, and have studied genetics at university. I'd never have considered breeding peas, but now I'm completely up for having a go next year.

Mostly because I'm completely in love with the red-podded peas, to be honest, but also because I fancy pretending to be Mendel, but without doing the monk thing... ;)

Patrick said...

That's really a stunning color! I hope you are able to stabilize it as a trait and get enough soon to taste and see if it's nice!

toads said...

Your breeding is really great. I guess if the taste of the red pea isn't great, you will find a way to combine the color and the god taste.
Keep breeding and blogging :-)

friary said...

Rebsie, the colours are amazing. Did you get enough to do a taste comparison and is there any correspondence between flower colour and pea colour?

Veg Heaven said...

Well, I've got the book - Carole Deppe - and I've got the bug! I'm after a purple mangetout. Don't want much, do I? But I'd settled for a Scarlet Anything instead! Well done. Onwards and Upwards!

clodhopper said...

Stunning pictures Rebsie. I do believe you have invented the Yurple Podded Pea.

GardenGirl said...

I have a question, oh pea princess...

I found this guy on my pea plants.

(since I couldn't figure out how to insert a picture I have had to make him my profile picture. He looks like some sort of weevil.)

Do I mind him being there? Should I go around with a tub of soapy water (a la the heirloomgardener) and scare them all into it so they drown? Are they going to put nasty little grubs into my baby peas?

Or are they totally innocuous?

Rebsie Fairholm said...

Thanks very much everyone for the lovely and encouraging comments.

Anna - you're a step ahead of me if you've studied genetics at university. Go for it, and good luck!

Patrick - I may have to wait a few months (or longer) before I get to taste them as I need to keep them for seed at this stage, but as both parent varieties had good flavour I'm hoping for the best.

Søren - thank you, I've been inspired by reading about your breeding projects too. And yes, if it doesn't taste great I can cross it with something else ...

John - both parent varieties had bicolour purple flowers, and so do all the offspring. The flowers don't look any different from a "normal" purple-flowered pea except they had a little bit more pink colour in the buds. Taste tests will have to come later, tempting though they are.

Veg Heaven - I'm so delighted you've decided to give it a go and I enjoyed reading about it on your blog. I'd love to see more people take up this wonderful and rewarding hobby. Carol's book has a couple of good sections about the genes involved in breeding purple mangetouts, though you can also do it perfectly well by trial and error. Very best of luck with your 'Oregon Lad'.

GardenGirl - Hmm, what a handsome chap. I'm not a great expert on pests, but yes he does look a bit like a pea weevil. They eat notches out of the leaves but as long as there's not a major infestation of them it's probably not much to worry about. I have a few of them on my plants but the amount of damage they do on their own (or in small numbers) is minimal. The only really damaging pea pest is the pea moth, and those tend to wreak their havoc without you ever seeing them ...

Veg Heaven said...

Rebsie, I've been trying to buy Mind the Gap but Paypal gives me a Page Not Found message. Any ideas?

Hedgewitch said...

hi rebsie.. you were right (of course!), one of my mystery peas is a Golden Sweet - just posted a photo of a lilac flower and the very first lemony yellow pod!

a second one is flowering now (beautiful two-tone purple flower) and I'm waiting to see if it will be purple-podded.

thanks so much for your help .. you have certainly really got me into pea growing!

Rebsie Fairholm said...

Hmm, I'm not sure why the PayPal thing isn't working. I just tried it and it works for me (the one on my website, that is). My record label has just gone out of business so there may be a problem ordering from them. I'll see if I can sort something out ... thanks for taking an interest in my album!

Seahorse said...

Jeezus O'Reilly! How cool is that?!?

Poppy said...

What a great colour, what will you be doing next? Growing the seeds from these peas?

ConsciousGardener said...

Gorgeous colors! Beautiful site, this is my first visit...very inspiring.

Sarah2 said...

I'm SO amazed!! And inspired! Have decided to have a go myself although my garden isn't big. So many thanks for this!