Monday 31 March 2008

Some excitement

This is one of the rare occasions when I blog about something other than gardening, because one of my tracks got played on Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone on BBC 6 Music yesterday, and I'm very excited. It may not mean much to you if you're outside the UK, but Stuart Maconie is a very well known presenter and it's a big achievement for a small independent artist like me to get onto his show. I've been played on regional BBC radio before but this is my first time on a major national station.

What made it even better was that the Freak Zone is one of the few radio shows I listen to, so I actually heard it come on. I had a few confused moments of "hang on, I know that song ..." and then I had to stick my head against the radio to convince myself that really was where the sound was coming from.

The track he played was from a new batch of songs which I've been working on with a collaborator, Dick Langford, who plays guitar for me, writes with me and does complicated arrangements and production way beyond my capabilities. On the surface of it we're a bit of an unlikely pairing, given that I've built my credentials as an ethereal English folksinger and he's a rock god. But somehow we really inspire each other and the songs have been flowing. Including some weird and wonderful hybrids from our cross-pollinated musical backgrounds. We've done everything from ukulele-driven cockney comedy numbers to full-on psychedelic freakouts. It's a wonderful experience to have the opportunities to explore all this different music.

Friday 28 March 2008

Yellow Sugarsnap Pea Project: planting out

Blimey, it's hard to keep up with the progress reports on all my breeding projects. Some of these pictures were taken two weeks ago.

The photo above shows my Golden Sweet x Sugar Ann F2 seedlings just before planting out. And in case anyone is wondering, no I don't recommend leaving them to get this big before getting them into the ground. The problem here was that they grew far more vigorously than I was anticipating, and became quite rampant while being hardened off in the cold frame. And then just as they were ready to plant out we had forecasts of severe gales, so I held off for a further week. The gales were indeed quite nasty, severe enough to see a whole day's racing cancelled at the Cheltenham Festival (I live about 2 miles from Cheltenham Racecourse). Peas are reasonably tolerant of cold weather but harsh spring winds can damage them, especially the taller types which are long and lanky and fall over easily. So by the time I deemed it safe to plant them out they were somewhat tangled together. As careful as I was, some of the stems got snapped during the disentangling process.

But these look like survivors. They've established themselves well and started to wrap their little tendrils round the spiky twigs I've provided for them. To protect them from any further rubbishy weather they're planted in a bamboo frame with two pairs of old lady's net curtains pegged around it. It's cheaper than horticultural fleece and works a treat. It does look pretty hideous, but am I bovvered?

One of the challenges in planting them out was keeping them in the same order they'd been sown in. You may remember I planted different shapes and colours of seeds in specific rows and I had to preserve the order of rows so that I can continue to look for differences between them. To make things more difficult, all of the rows had one or two dwarf plants (the natural segregation of tall and short genes at the F2 stage) and I had to try to plant the short ones at the front edge of the frame, or else they'll get swamped.

The control group. Golden Sweet at the back and Sugar Ann in front. A bit of a height difference!

And this photo shows why I've got a mix of tall and short plants. This is the control group, a small batch of plants of each of the original parent varieties, which I'm growing for comparison purposes. As you can see, even at the seedling stage there's a huge height difference between Golden Sweet and Sugar Ann. They were sown at the same time, and although Golden Sweet was slightly faster to germinate, most of the difference you see here is genetic. The difference between tall and short peas is internode length. Short peas grow each successive set of leaves in a tight little stack with very little space between them. Tall peas grow a goodly stretch of stem between each set of leaves. So you can often see the difference within a few days of germination.

At this stage in their development, there are not many visible differences between the F2 seedlings other than their height and the presence or absence of a purple splodge in the leaf axil. I was expecting a majority of the seedlings to have the splodge, since it's associated with two dominant genes: A, which switches on anthocyanin production, and D which creates the axil splodge itself. Both these genes are carried by Golden Sweet but not Sugar Ann. Though to be more precise, Sugar Ann may or may not have gene D ... I've no idea because D can only work in the presence of A, the "on" switch. Sugar Ann almost certainly doesn't have A, so it can't produce any purple colouring regardless of whether or not it has any purple-colouring genes. Just one of those fun little quirks of vegetable genetics.

When they were small almost none of the seedlings had purple splodges. But many of them have now developed it, even if it's a bit pale and washy compared to the big double splodge of Golden Sweet.

And here's a seedling which doesn't have a purple splodge but does have red edges on its leaves (which I hope you can just see in the photo). So presumably this plant has inherited gene A but not gene D. I don't know the official name for the gene which makes red edges. It's pretty though.

Thursday 27 March 2008

Today in the garden ... excesses

Damson blossom, photographed last week (it's all out in full bloom now)

Some people stay up late at night looking through pages and pages of porn on the internet. For me it's tomatoes. Just as I should have been going to bed on Tuesday night I chanced upon some lovely photos of F2 hybrid tomatoes which someone had put up on their website and sat up into the small hours compulsively clicking through them. "Phwoarrr, look at the stripes on that Brandywine ..." etc etc.

And then my internet connection went dead. I naturally assumed God was punishing me for my excessive indulgence, or else that I'd clicked on so many pictures I'd swallowed up the entire bandwidth of our broadband connection and that our ISP's servers probably had steam coming out of them. But either way it was worrying, because I'm frighteningly reliant on the internet. All my social contact and my work is done online, and without the internet I'm a lost soul floundering in an empty universe.

The next day it still wasn't working, and after a couple of hours of staring helpessly at the router, and then staring helplessly at the internet configuration software on the computers, my husband rang up the ISP's worse-than-useless helpline. I say worse-than-useless, because we're a Mac-based household and inevitably after spending an hour listening to some godawful tinny music and "please hold the line" on an endless loop, you get through to someone who says "er ... we don't know anything about Macs" and proceeds to read out a list of instructions for how you would fix the problem if you had a PC. Which we haven't.

In this instance though, the problem wasn't technical. It turned out that my husband's debit card had expired. And instead of asking for the new card details, they just left it until the money ran out and then cut us off. Charming.

Meanwhile, here's a very vague and incomplete update about what I'm growing at the moment.

A classic French mangetout pea, Carouby de Mausanne, ready for planting out.

The red-flowered broad beans which got flattened by a double-pane of glass when my ineptly constructed cold frame collapsed have, as expected, survived with no damage whatsoever.

I've finally succumbed to the inevitable and begun planting potatoes in the front garden. Well, what's a girl to do when she runs out of growing space? Other women buy shoes, I buy potatoes. The front garden is a scruffy embarrassment anyway because I'm an exceedingly shy person and get really self-conscious working at the front of the house, even though there's an enormous privet hedge screening me from the pavement. The previous owner of the house kept it nicely stocked with roses and fuchsias and peonies but all the flowers are pink - and pink is not a colour I'm very fond of to say the least. I have a friend up the road who adores all things pink and she had a deep red peony in her garden which she hated, so we did a swap. I love deep red. And contrary to popular wisdom, you can move peonies as long as you do it in September and don't plant them too deeply. But once the red one was installed in my garden it started producing pink flowers, so it must be something in my karma.

Anyway, to make room for a potato bed under the privet hedge I had to murder a luxurious crop of bluebells. But I hasten to add they were Spanish bluebells, the species which is fecking up our native bluebell population, and they do stifle everything else I try to grow and are really just a bloody nuisance. The old lady who lived here before told me the bluebells were already established when she moved here in 1967, and I did feel guilty about destroying a colony of plants which is older than me, but there's no way I've got rid of them all ... they'll be back. It was a heck of a job to dig them out and they stank of fox wee. But anyway, there's now a double row of British Queen spuds in their place. While I was out there digging a lady I didn't know stopped by the gate and said hello. Then she said in a broad Gloucestershire accent, "oi've got fish 'n' chips in moi bag!" I said "oh, that's nice", and she scuttled off gleefully. Ah well, at least people round here are friendly.

Over the winter I've collected a mad number of new peas, some of which I've just started off in modules. These include some rare treasures from the Heritage Seed Library, such as Lancashire Lad (one of the purple podders I haven't tried yet), Gladstone (a Victorian variety reputed to have exceptional sweetness and flavour) and Duke of Albany (another Victorian rarity which is supposedly a parent of Alderman). I've also been entrusted with five seeds of a mystery pea from Ireland, thanks to Seahorse Claire. We know nothing about it, except that it was inherited from someone's grandfather. It may be a commercial variety or it may be a unique heirloom ... we won't know until we've grown it. The peas themselves are small, completely round, and a pale buff colour. It resembles the seeds of Corne de Belier, and I'm wondering if it will turn out to be a mangetout type. Anyway, we'll see.

I've also got some pea plants on the go which I sowed in early February and have now planted out, including Alaska (thanks Patrick), Carouby de Mausanne and Oregon Trail. The latter is an American pea, kindly sent to me by Penya Seeds in exchange for letting them use one of my photographs. It looks quite distinctly different from my other pea varieties. I can't explain why, but it does. Yeah I know, except to the eye of love, one pea looks much like another. But take it from me, this one looks different. I'm not expecting it to impress me with its flavour (though I'm open to surprises on that) but it does have resistance to powdery mildew, which is the deadly grim reaper of the pea world ... at least in the moist English climate. Those genes might come in handy for future breeding projects, so that's why I'm trialling it.

My transatlantic pea acquisition, Oregon Trail

I'm still catching up with the last few seed swaps, having had an enormously enthusiastic response ... and I'm curious about something. What's the deal with Ne Plus Ultra? I think I must have had more people ask for Ne Plus Ultra than all my other pea varieties put together. Everyone wants it and I've even had people who don't normally read my blog coming to me for it because W. Robinson (the supplier I originally got mine from) have sold out. The only thing I'm aware of that makes Ne Plus Ultra special is that it's one of the oldest pea cultivars still in existence (introduced in the 1840s) and was one of the first sweet-tasting peas ever developed. I reviewed it last season and was slightly lukewarm in my praise of it ... it is a good variety with a lot going for it, but I don't rate it as highly as some other Victorian peas like Magnum Bonum (1860s) or Alderman (1890s). I'll be interested to hear how people get on with the Ne Plus Ultra seeds I've sent them and whether it lives up to expectations!

Wednesday 26 March 2008

The Real Seeds Purple Mangetout Pea Project

Photographed in 2007, this is a home-made F1 hybrid, Golden Sweet x Carruthers' Purple Podded

I've talked a bit about my yellow sugarsnaps and I'll post another update on those soon. But it's about time I posted about my Purple Mangetout project again.

To briefly recap, Ben of The Real Seed Catalogue asked me to produce a new pea variety for him because he wants to be able to offer a good purple mangetout pea and currently there aren't any. You can eat purple podded peas at the mangetout stage, but they don't have anything like the sweet and crunchy pleasure of a green-podded mangetout. There's no particular reason for that, except that nobody in the crop development industry has bothered to breed a mangetout with purple pods because pod colour has no agricultural importance ... so the job falls to amateurs like me.

Ben's favourite mangetout pea is Golden Sweet, which is a yellow-podded heirloom pea with red-flushed stems and purple flowers. It's a spectacularly gorgeous variety (see my pictures), it's tall and voluptuous, and the bright yellow pods are sweet and crunchy and delicious. There's nothing else remotely like it. He considers it the best mangetout there is, so basically what he wants is a pea which is just like Golden Sweet but with purple pods instead of yellow ones.

In theory that should be quite easy to achieve. Golden Sweet already has many of the genes associated with purple-podded peas. Most importantly, it has the gene which switches on the production of anthocyanin (purple pigment). A whole load of other genes are involved in determining which parts of the plant the anthocyanin shows up in. To turn Golden Sweet into a purple-podder, all I have to do is get hold of the genes which make purple pods and breed them into it. Purple pods in peas are controlled by two dominant genes, which I can get from any purple podded variety. And I can transfer those two genes into Golden Sweet by a method known as recurrent backcrossing.

It works like this. A cross between Golden Sweet and a purple-podder is going to have half its genome from each parent. The offspring at the F2 stage will have a mixture of traits from both parents, all jumbled up. Let's say I select one of the F2 plants which has purple pods, and cross it with Golden Sweet. This is known as a backcross, because I'm crossing it back to one of the original parent varieties. The resulting offspring (F3 generation) will have three-quarters of its genes from Golden Sweet and only a quarter from the purple podded variety. Hopefully there will still be some offspring with purple pods though. So I select those again, and backcross them with Golden Sweet again ... giving me an F4 generation which is seven-eighths Golden Sweet and one-eighth the purple. By using this method up to the F5 generation, I should end up with a fairly true-breeding variety which is almost entirely Golden Sweet but with purple pods! Recurrent backcrossing is a powerful technique because it eliminates a lot of unwanted variability very quickly while enabling me to hang on to those two dominant genes which make purple pods.

That's the theory anyway!

If all goes according to plan I should have a stable new variety by the end of 2009.

Another photo from 2007. This time it's the Golden Sweet x Desiree F1 hybrid

So how's it panning out in practice? Well, I grew the F1 plants in 2007 and you can see from the pictures how they turned out ... they were pretty much as expected. When I crossed Golden Sweet with a purple podded pea, the offspring (F1 generation) all had purple pods. That's because the purple-pod genes are dominant, and they mask out Golden Sweet's recessive yellow-pod gene completely. In fact there was no trace of yellow colouring anywhere in the plants. As for the pods, they were all purple as expected, but partially blotched with green. I've been getting this in all my purple pea hybrids. When I cross a purple-pod with a green-pod, I get a marbled swirl of purple and green in the F1. When I cross a purple-pod with a yellow-pod as I did here, I still get a marbled swirl of purple and green. There are two likely causes I can think of. One is co-dominance, where the dominant purple genes fight with dominant green genes, and you end up with a mix of the two (if so, I should see them separate out into solid colours again in the F2 generation, about half and half of each). The other possible explanation is incomplete penetrance, where the purple-pod gene simply doesn't assert itself fully, for reasons best known to itself. I think on balance this is the most likely cause. The pods in the picture (Golden Sweet x Desiree) are the ones showing the most solid purple ... most of them were decidedly blotchy.

I'm working with two separate crosses in this project. Ben sent me a purple-podded pea called Desiree to do the cross with. It's not a variety Real Seeds currently sell, and I don't know much about its origins. It's a semi-dwarf variety (an unusual thing in peas) which grows to about three feet high. It's bushy and has beautiful flowers borne in pairs. The pods are just beautiful ... a rich dark indigo-purple colour, wide and flat, and ripening into fat little leathery pods with a glowing burgundy colour. It's normally grown as a soup pea and when the pods are mature they're so tough it's a job to pull them off the plant. My own favourite purple-podded pea though is Carruthers' Purple Podded, which is very different. I trialled a number of purple podded peas last year and there was a lot of difference between varieties. Carruthers is tall and refined with elegant, lantern-like flowers borne singly on long curvy stems. It has a brighter burgundy pod colour than Desiree, and smoother, sweeter-tasting pods. So I decided to make two separate breeding lines for this project, Golden Sweet x Desiree and Golden Sweet x Carruthers' Purple Podded, and to grow them side by side and see what differences there are.

The F2 seedlings, photographed a week or so ago. Golden Sweet x Carruthers' Purple Podded in the top picture, Golden Sweet x Desiree below.

I saved seeds from the F1 plants of both crosses. And a few weeks ago I sowed them, three each in bog-roll tubes. These are the F2 generation, and this is where the interesting stuff starts happening. The plants in this generation should segregate into roughly a quarter yellow-podded and three-quarters purple-podded, but I'll have to wait and see. I sowed 27 seeds of each cross, but germination has been quite erratic and I currently have 18 seedlings of GS x D and 19 of GS x CPP. I may sow a few more, but in theory I shouldn't need too many. As I'm looking for traits associated with dominant genes, I expect about 3/4 of these plants to have what I want. Very different from the Yellow Sugarsnap Project, where I'm after two recessive genes and will only get them in about 1/16.

This is the sort of splodge I'm getting in the F2 leaf axils. Seen here on a GS x CPP seedling.

The F2 seedlings are still small at the moment, but there are already some obvious differences. The GS x D cross is segregating into 3/4 tall and 1/4 short (which is normal in crosses between tall and dwarf peas) while the GS x CPP seedlings are all of a similar height because they are a cross between two tall varieties. Almost all the seedlings have purple splodges in the leaf axils, but they vary as to how much they have and how splodgy it is.

Purple spots on GS x D

And now here's a curiosity. About a quarter of the plants in both crosses have purple spots on the leaves, which is not something I've seen in any of the parents. I assume there's some recessive trait in Golden Sweet coming through here.

What larks.

Saturday 22 March 2008

Take up thy seeds and sow

Association Kokopelli is in trouble. And it breaks my heart to see it. Their French website says "ON A PERDU!" in capital letters.

For those of you who don't know Kokopelli, they're a French-based seedsaver organisation who maintain 2500 varieties of rare and endangered vegetables and run several charitable initiatives in developing countries. Their work is vital and indefatiguable. Unfortunately it's also illegal, due to the preposterously backward seed laws in Europe, and this has now resulted in them being clobbered with a €35,000 fine. The gist of it is that Kokopelli were hounded through the courts by a commercial seed company, Baumaux (shame and damnation on them) because their catalogue of thousands of unique heirloom vegetables gave them an "unfair trading advantage". I won't subject you to the language that came spouting out of me when I read that but it's a truly insidious example of what happens when big business gets waaaaaay too much control of our garden seeds and our food chain. And it sounds a danger signal for the future of biodiversity in Europe.

Where else but Association Kokopelli can you get Venus' Nipple tomatoes? Seen here with Speckled Roman, Des Andes, Peacevine, Caro Rich and others.

Now, a few weeks ago I was honoured with this "E for Excellent" award by Jeremy from Agricultural Biodiversity and was too busy to do anything about it at the time. It's just an informal fun thing but I'm very appreciative of the endorsement, not least because Jeremy is the author of a much respected seed saving book and a long-time champion of heritage vegetables, so I consider it a great compliment that he reads my blog at all, let alone considers it worthy of mention. The deal is that I'm supposed to nominate 10 other blogs for Excellence, but as this one has already been doing the rounds for a bit, a great many of my favourite blogs have already been awarded it. So here's what I'm going to do instead. I'm presenting my "E for Excellent" award to one of my greatest gardening heroes. And the hero of the moment for me is Association Kokopelli's Dominique Guillet.

Back in the 1980s, Dominique Guillet was an entrepreneur making products for the Bach Flower Remedy company. What frustrated him though was that there wasn't much point in people taking remedies when the food they were eating was rubbish. So he sold up and spent the money on a plot of land in the Auvergne, where he set about growing organic vegetables and collecting rare and unusual heirloom varieties from all over the planet. Some came from botanical gardens, some from organic growers, and many from individuals who had created and maintained their own varieties. He set up a non-profit organisation called Terre de Semences to produce and sell a huge range of these seeds, enthusiastically taken up by garden centres all over France.

Disaster struck in 1997 in the form of the French Ministry of Agriculture, who started getting heavy-handed over Terre de Semences' distribution of "illegal" seeds. They were faced with an obligation to pay a £45 registration fee for each of their 2000 varieties, or face enforced closure by the French fraud squad. Unavoidably, the organisation ceased trading.

Undeterred, Dominique bounced back with the foundation of Association Kokopelli. In addition to producing and selling organic heirloom seeds, the Association set up numerous charitable projects in countries across Asia, Africa and South America. These include educational foundations to teach local people to produce their own vegetables and also the large-scale distribution of free seed packets to the poor, including 50,000 packets given away in Afghanistan. All the seeds Kokopelli supply are open-pollinated (non-hybrid) varieties so that people can save their own seed from year to year and not be locked into a cycle of debt by big seed corporations.

Dominique's book The Seeds of Kokopelli is my joint-favourite gardening book ever (along with Carol Deppe's book on vegetable breeding). It's a very large chunky 440-page hardback book and contains a descriptive catalogue of 2500 vegetable varieties (the majority of which are available from Association Kokopelli if you want to try them) ... 600 tomatoes, 370 peppers, 200 squash, 130 lettuces, 40 melons, 50 aubergines and a whole load of things I'd never heard of. It has sections of colour plates with the kind of pictures I never tire of drooling over with childlike wonder. There's a historical and nutritional section for each type of veg, and cultivation instructions, including cross-pollination issues, seed saving methods and sometimes instructions for how to create new varieties. For tomatoes, for example, there's a detailed explanation of how different genes create different colour combinations. There is truly no other gardening book like it.

Not only is it one of the most inspiring vegetable gardening books ever written but its sale directly supports Association Kokopelli's charity work. In the UK it costs £24 including postage and comes with three free packets of tomato seed! (If you're in the US or Canada, you can get it here.)

I dunno what to do to help Association Kokopelli other than to support them by buying their seeds and encouraging all you heritage veg lovers out there to do the same. They need all the income they can get at the moment, and there's also the unmentionable possibility that these heirloom treasures may become unavailable if Kokopelli can't ride out this storm. They have a UK branch run by Chris Baur, an organic farmer in Kent, and a slightly scaled-down American presence. The online UK catalogue lists over 1000 varieties of wonderful stuff, much of which isn't available anywhere else, and if you buy more than five packets they send freebies. Sometimes the seed packets are in French but it's not difficult to work out what "fruits en forme de banane" are or that you need to plant out tomatoes "après les dernières gelées". Unlike most seed packets they tell you who grew the seed, and when.

The diversity of European seeds is under more threat now than it's ever been (with even more backward legislation on its way in for 2009) so it's never been more important for all of us as individuals to save and maintain non-mainstream varieties. Sow your heirloom seeds with pride and raise two fingers to the EU seed legislation and the big bloated corporations who feed off it.

I don't know what the future holds for Dominique Guillet and his team but he's an absolute inspiration to me and I wish him the very best of fortune and every ounce of strength to fight back.

Tuesday 4 March 2008

On F2 seedlings and other stuff

Photographed on Saturday, just 9 days after sowing. Golden Sweet x Sugar Ann F2 seedlings.

I'm still struggling to keep up with everything (music is going well - four lots of radio airplay this week!) but I wanted to show you how well my F2 seedlings are coming along.

There's lots more going on. I'm hoping to get a greenhouse (what a dream come true that would be!) if I can find someone to put the bloody thing up as I don't fancy wielding large panels of glass above head-height myself. Meanwhile my home-made coldframe collapsed in a storm a couple of nights ago and splatted my crimson-flowered broad beans, which is not surprising given that the frame wasn't actually held together with anything except gravity, flowerpots and force of will. I think the beans are salvagable. And my next door neighbour kindly helped me cement-in a new post at a sensible height for the washing line which runs along one side of the garden, so I no longer have to garotte myself each time I go in and out of the vegetable patch.

I've been caught off guard somewhat by the way my Yellow Sugarsnap F2s have sprung into action. They are actually getting to the size where they'll need to be planted out soon, and I was banking on them taking a little longer so I could leave it till the weather is more reliable. It was also a little unfortunate that having had the sunniest February on record they happened to germinate just as we went into a few days of grey murky weather so when I photographed them on Saturday they were looking a bit leggy. But a few days of sunshine since then have fattened them up nicely. Here's what they look like today:

Something I didn't mention in my previous post on the Yellow Sugarsnaps is that I'm also growing small amounts of each of the original varieties, Golden Sweet and Sugar Ann. It's very useful in any breeding project to have the parent varieties as a control group. No matter how well you think you know a variety, there are bound to be some traits showing up in the F2 generation which make you think "which parent did that come from, or is it something completely new?" It's also useful to have plants of the parent varieties flowering at the same time in case I want to do a backcross. Backcrossing involves making a cross between an F2 plant and one of the original parent lines. It's a very useful technique for stablising a potential new variety, and for making the offspring more like one parent than the other. Having said that, it's unlikely that I will want to do any backcrossing with the Yellow Sugarsnaps because the class I'm looking for is a double recessive with one recessive trait coming from each parent. If I backcrossed to Golden Sweet I would probably lose the plump sugarsnap pods and if I backcrossed to Sugar Ann I'd lose the yellow colour. To retain those two recessives I will probably have to keep inbreeding from the F2 and select out any unwanted variability in future generations. That's the plan. But ... it's still worth having the parent varieties on hand, just in case.

It's a lot of fun looking at the F2 seedlings and trying to spot the differences. One difference is immediately obvious. Most of the seedlings are tall and lanky but some are short and chunky instead. There are 12 shorties among my tray of 64 plants ... now that's looking like a Mendelian ratio! And it's one I was expecting, because it's actually the first one Mendel himself spotted. I'm really following in Mendel's footsteps here because Golden Sweet or something incredibly like it was one of the varieties he experimented with and led to him discovering the existence of the ratios which are named after him. In peas, the tall gene is dominant over the short gene, so when you cross a tall pea with a short pea you get a ratio of 3/4 tall to 1/4 short in the F2 generation. My project is a tall x short cross, so in my batch of 64 plants I would expect about sixteen to be short. Twelve is near enough. To be honest 64 plants is quite a small sample size so I'm unlikely to get exact ratios. When Mendel did this he was working with hundreds of plants at a time, so the ratios stood out more clearly.

Not easy to photograph a Mendelian ratio, but you get the idea. You may notice one shortie which is a lot redder than the others ... they're all different.

I also mentioned before that sometimes it's the lack of a Mendelian ratio that makes things interesting. One that's surprising me is a complete lack of purple splodges in the leaf axils. I was expecting to see it in around three quarters of them since it's controlled by dominant genes, but none of them are showing it. I have no explanation for that at the moment.

Of course, the Yellow Sugarsnap project is just one of several pea breeding projects I have on the go, and when I get a moment (aaaargh!) I will show you some pictures of the F2 seedlings I'm growing for the Real Seeds Purple Mangetout Project.