Saturday 5 July 2008

Red-podded pea update

All together now ... oooooooooooh!!

The red-podded peas have now completed their life cycle, and in fact have started a new one, because I've already sown a batch of their F3 offspring.

Red-podded peas were an unexpected gift from my Purple Mangetout Project, which I'm doing on behalf of The Real Seed Catalogue. I really have to thank Ben of Real Seeds for making it happen. He sent me the Golden Sweet seeds to experiment with and I don't think I would have thought of crossing Golden Sweet with a purple podded pea if he hadn't suggested it. It was a good choice ... I think there's a distinct lack of genetic diversity in peas generally, and as I'm discovering in this and other projects, Golden Sweet is something really different and brings a heck of a lot of useful genetic material into the mix.

Among my F2 plants there is just one, known as GSC15, which has pure deep red pods. GSC stands for "Golden Sweet x Carruthers", followed by a number. It's just my own little code for identifying individual plants.

Here's what GSC15 looked like at various stages.

Ooooooh ....

Aaaaaah ...

Yeah ...

This plant always looked special and highly coloured, and in fact I posted a couple of photographs of it when it was just a seedling, because it was the most beautiful of the seedlings. It's turned into an amazingly beautiful mature plant. It has a whole range of candy colours as well as the spectacular crimson pods, even producing two-tone pink and yellow tendrils. It's an improvement on Golden Sweet, the parent it inherited its colours from. It grew vigorously and elegantly, and also had the grace to produce two pods per node. It really is a winner. There has to be something imperfect about it though, and I think that might be in the pods themselves. It's clearly not a true mangetout because it has some fibre and leatheriness in the pods. But I'm not sure it's cut out to be a sheller either ... the one pea I ate was a little bit starchy. It would be a shame if you couldn't eat the red pods anyway, so I'm looking to develop a fibre-free version.

This is not really a problem. The next generation is likely to show more segregation for hidden recessive traits and there's a good chance, I think, that I'll get something with the same strong colour but a true mangetout, or sweeter peas.

GSC15: the young leaves have a yellow tint to them, and a deep pink blotch in every leaf axil. The flowers are bicolour maroon and mauve, a trait inherited from both parents.

Even the tendrils are beautiful. The stems are peachy pink and the tendrils bright yellow. It's a difficult thing to photograph and this really doesn't do justice to it but you can see the contrast here as it clings to the ordinary green tendril of one of its siblings.

Yellow-podded peas always show a lot of yellow in the young leaves as the plant reaches the flowering stage, and of course red-podded peas ARE yellow-podded, with an extra layer of purple over the top to create the red. So GSC15 shows all the colours you'd expect in a yellow pea, with some additional pinky colours. The calyx (pixie hat) on the flower buds are pale cream but show quite a lot of pink streaking, which is something I haven't seen in any other plants ... but it is a natural enough combination of parental traits ... Golden Sweet is the source of the cream calyx while Carruthers' Purple Podded provides the pink streaks.

GSC15 plant top ... yellow leaves with a very bold, bright pink splodge in the leaf axil and also some strong pink markings on the flower buds.

Although GSC15 is the clear champion of this batch of plants, there were other red-podded peas which were mostly red but maintained some of the underlying yellow. Some more than others. GSC09 is quite promising ... it's a true mangetout, and the one pod I tasted was very nice. The red colour is quite patchy in places though, with only a few showing a dominance of red. The photo at the top of this post shows a GSC09 pod, one of the less yellowy patchy ones. Again, I'm hoping some further segregation in the F3 generation will give me more mangetouts like this but with a stronger colour.

Initially the red podders were all from my Golden Sweet x Carruthers cross, but later a couple showed up in the Golden Sweet x Desiree cross as well. The GSD plants were both dwarf phenotypes with mostly yellow pods and only a spraying of red. They don't look as promising as the GSC ones but it's interesting that this happened at all ... it suggests that any cross between a purple and a yellow podded pea could potentially produce red pods, and it's not an exclusive feature of the Golden Sweet x Carruthers cross.

Flowers on a red-podded Golden Sweet x Desiree hybrid. Again it's a beautiful highly coloured plant with two flowers per node, although it only grows to a foot or two in height.

Depending on what traits show up in future generations, I may develop the semi-red peas into a new variety in their own right. They have a charm of their own, and although they're not as spectacular as the true reds, they are still a unique colour break. Some of them are yellow with just a bit of red edging, others are lightly "sprayed" with red all over, giving a peachy effect.

Bicolour yellow and red pods, one of the Golden Sweet x Desiree plants.

The next stage is to grow the seeds from all the red-podders. Normally in a breeding project you have to cross the F2 plants with each other to produce the F3. As peas are self-pollinating, however, all you have to do is leave them to produce seed naturally. There's still time for me to get another generation grown in 2008 as long as I start them off pretty promptly, so I've been harvesting the pods as soon as they reach maturity and drying them in trays indoors. I judge "maturity" as the time when the calyx starts to dry out and the top of the pod (where it joins on to the plant) starts to look a bit sunken and leathery. I save the seeds from each plant separately, which is a lot of work but enables me to keep track of everything in future generations, and learn from it.

In addition to starting off a batch of F3s, I've sown another lot of F2s as I still had plenty of F2 seeds left. I'm hoping there will be some more red-podders among them which will give me more material to work with and hopefully more genetic combinations.

The first few GSC15 pods drying indoors. The pods go purple as they dry out, and the peas stay green but shrivel to a tiny size. YSS10 is one of the beautiful bicolour-flowered types from my yellow sugarsnap project. I alternate them so they don't get muddled up.


Kath said...

Oooh, this is so exciting! I hope I get something half as good from my attempts. I haven't used a yellow podded though, so red is off, but I'm already planning my genetic material for next year - can't wait for the HSL cataloge!

Well done - it's great what enthusiastic amateurs can achieve.

Matron said...

Simply stunning! I am reading your posts with wide eyed enjoyment!

Jeremy said...


Robbiegirl said...

Red peas are AWESOME!

I've got some Purple Podded which I'm going to cross with Golden Sweet - hopefully I'll get red peas too!

You've definitely inspired me to breed my own veg. :)

Anonymous said...

Hello greetings from Oregon. I sent the Sugar magnolia seed to Graham and I think he passed it on to you. I grew the seed this year and it looks mixed up. It seems to be the variety "Spring Blush" another Kapuler variety. Its not purple podded but it has a purple stripe. Sorry for the mix up if its also mixed up for you.

The peace seeds description is...
"Spring Blush arose in the quest for a high quality purple podded snap vine pea; bicolor purple flowers, vines exceed 8', have hypertendrils and green pods with a purple stripe and distinctive pink blush."

Lets talk more about this. Please email me at seedambassadors(at)gmail(dot)com

I love your work and your blog!

Ashraf Al Shafaki said...

I love the COLORS. Your photos are amazing! The black background in your blog also makes them really stand out. Amazing!

It's my first time in your blog and I love the vivid colors and the type of topics your talking about. I just LOVE your blog. I'll try to check it out often.

RED is lovely!

Silvia Hoefnagels . Salix Tree said...

Just visiting.. I love that red pea! What a beautiful color!
My peas are doing wonderfully well, the ones that survived the 2 week storms from last month. We ate a whole bowlfull last night, again.

Ian said...

Hi there,

Sorry to be a bit off topic here but you were recommended by Polly at a Life Less Simple and you can find a post about her and her other blog recommendations at

I'm a big fan of farm/small-holding/rural blogs and I have been frustrated by the lack of a single place to go to to find the good ones, not just from one country, but from around the world.

Hence, I've recently started a blog called

The idea is very simple: I ask farm/rural bloggers who have been recommended by other farm or rural bloggers to recommend their favourite farm blogs. I then link them to my blog roll, and write to them and ask them to do the same thing - that is to say to write to me with their favourite farm blogs. (I also post important stories on world agriculture. Or at least ones I spot and find interesting.)

I've linked therefore your blog to and if you'd like to send me an email to info AT ianwalthew DOT com with a few words about your blog, and about your favourite farm blogs, then it would be very much appreciated. (If you can link to, so much the better!).

I should make a couple of things clear:

Firstly, it is not my intention to sell advertising on this blog, or take your content - simply steer people in the direction of farm blogs I find interesting, which means that...

Secondly, I am really trying to identify farm blogs that are primarily about farming/rural life or general resources (as oppossed to blogs written by people who may live on farms, but the subject of which isn't primarily about farming). By farm I mean anyone involved in the production of food, so we stretch from ranchers to small-holdings.

Very much hoping to hear from you,

With kind regards,

Seahorse said...

Really fabulous. Wow.

Be a Goddess music said...

wow how beautiful are these !! most of mine have been slug munched due to the wet and hideous summer.

naturewitch said...

The red peas are definitely gorgeous. I have some red flowering peas in the garden at the moment, but as it is winter here they are still very tiny. When spring arrives, I'm hoping they will take off. BUT I think only the flowers are red and not the pods. Will hopefully take some photos and post on my blog.

Congrats on such a successful experiment - can't wait to see further crossings! xx

timx said...

I have just found this blog, and find what you do fascinating. I have just read your piece about F1 hybrids from 2006 and know a lot more now than I did before. Naturally I have linked to your blog from mine, and intend to read the whole thing over time!

canadamike said...

This is wonderful work Rebsie, I came here out of luck, but I am so happy I found the place.

I am part of a bunch of crazy folks ( funny, a LOT are musicians, like the moderator, but I am only an humble former song writer and producer)who do a lot of experimentation and hybridization/ segregation.
I am currently working on sweet corn, c. pepo and melons/watermelons. If you are into them, please don't be shy to send me an e-mail, I have hundreds of melon cultivars from genebanks to test and cross, we are working for cold climate melons. Should you be interested, seeds will very happily travel your way, same with all others we are playing with. I am also working on potatoes from seeds, I have a lot of material I obtained from Tom Wagner,and I am growing close to 200 clones right now, many with lots of different flesh and skin colors and disease and insect resistance.

If you were kind enough to e-mail me some practical pointers on pea hybridisation ( when to play with the flower etc...) it would be really appreciated.

Meanwhile, why don't you look into our little forum of plant explorers, we have friends from 4 continents, it is really interesting.

canadamike said...

This is really interesting. I have planted Golden Sweet this year and the tought of crossing it with a purple to get a red never crossed my mind. On the other hand, I have an F-1 cross of c.pepo that is a real monster, in size and in health. The leaves are the size of big maximas, the plant is surrounded by mildewed neighbours and keeps on pumping growth, and a couple of other ones, including a zucchini with the yellow top and green bottom. I came here out of luck, clicking on a link of my friend Lieven from Belgium I am a french canadian ''plant explorers'', folks in my group are plant breeders and explorers like you, from many countries. It would be neat if you joined us, come visit us at

I would appreciate having some pointers on pea hybridization, when is the good time for the flower etc...( excuse my english).

My e-mail is :
Iam currently working also on melons for cold climate, I have over 200 accesssions from genebanks to test and cross , if you love them...just say it, seeds will happily go your way.

Keep on the great work, and it is too bad Real seeds will not ship to Canada ( since he is your friend, please tell him mailing seeds here from GB is OK, as opposed to the states!)

We plant enthousiasts need more people like you!!

Sage said...

They look absolutely stunning... haven't heard of the varieties before but looking them up as I type.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to have a pea that looked that fabulous and tasted good too. Let us know when you get one!

Unknown said...

They are beautiful - although people who 'see' with their soft palate, like me, will want to know which ones taste best in the long run ... I have Carruthers but I've never thought about crossing them. I can feel a project for next year coming on.

Cat said...

Rebsie--reading your blog is such a delight! :)

I'm so glad I saw this referenced (not sure where, but glad it was!).

You are a multi-talented woman!!!

Anonymous said...

Rebsie, I hope all is well. It's been a long time since your last post.

Anonymous said...

oooooooooooh!! indeed.
Beautiful pictures!
And the red pods are gorgeous!


vasmike said...

I was interested in your blog on the black seeded runner bean. I have been developing a black runner bean for 15 years. My beans are purple-podded and unlike the ones you grew, remain tender when they are very large and taste sweet (you can even eat them raw!). Have you come across a purple-podded runner bean?

Unknown said...

I'm hoping you can help me diagnose a problem I'm having with my sugar snap peas.

I'm them hydroponically in my greenhouse. All was going well and the peas were flowering nicely. However, recently, the the leaves seem to be drying up. We did have some warm weather and it would have been warmer in the greenhouse, but the plants always had water (hydroponics).
Not sure what to do. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Please e-mail me: Thanks very much for your help.