‘THE DREAM has always been a rainbow of peas,” Dylana Kapuler of Peace Seedlings was saying over the phone line, and sitting there, staring out my rainbow-free, melty-gray, still-under-snow world, that sounded really good. A rainbow of edible peas: not just green ones, but purple ones, and yellow ones, including varieties with rose or purple flowers that that have extra appeal to hummingbirds. Bring it on.
The evolving rainbow of peas at Peace Seedlings—with more colors to come—got its start with decades of breeding by Alan Kapuler, Dylana’s father, a longtime public-domain plant breeder and the founder of Peace Seeds.
(More on him, and on some of the other combined Kapuler treasures, from marigolds and zinnias to edible Andean tubers like oca and yacon, to a rainbow of beautiful beets, is at the end of this story.)
“We’re doing a lot of crosses and selecting ourselves now, too,” says Dylana of the work she and partner Mario DiBenedetto continue in collaboration with Alan and his wife, Linda, in Corvallis, Oregon. “We have a great set of parents to work with from his legacy.” (Funny how that last statement about great parents works on both the human and plant-genetic levels.)
In the Peace Seedlings list, you won’t find the usual suspects—no ‘Sugar Snap’ or ‘Sugar Ann,’ no ‘Cascadia’ or ‘Tall Telephone.’ And though they don’t sell them, Dylana still plants the heirlooms ‘Alderman’ (a tall shelling pea) and ‘Multistar’ (a shorter bush type) to shuck and stock her freezer with peas for the offseason, saving the seed year to year.
At Peace Seedlings, the peas are all the kinds you eat with their pods on—and most are taller and vining (meaning they generally bear their crop over a longer time than, say, determinate short-stature peas such as ‘Sugar Ann’). Many feature non-white flowers that means more interest for visiting hummingbirds (and for the gardener), plus chefs who love to serve pea shoots and garnish with the edible blooms.
‘Sugar Magnolia’ (which I have grown the last few years and love; photo above) is one of a kind: the first purple-podded sugar snap pea, on prolific 8-foot-tall vines. Purple flowers.
‘Spring Blush’ has an unusual pink blush on the side of the snap pea pod—something the team hopes will continue to evolve as an increasing contribution to that “rainbow” goal. 6-8 feet.
In recent years the Peace team has finished selecting on ‘Sweet Elma’ and ‘Oregon Hypertendril,’ their only two bush types and both beautifully purple-flowered.
That word “hypertendril” is another point of Peace’s emphasis: “We try to select for millions more curls on a tendril, to hold the vines up better,” says Dylana, “Like closer to a hundred rather than the 10 on a normal tendril.”
All the while we are talking colorful varieties, I’m hearing another voice in the background. It’s Mario, and he keeps saying, “’Green Beauty,’ ‘Green Beauty.’”
The team calls ‘Green Beauty’ a “snow-snap” because they’re best eaten when the peas start to form in the big pods, which start to curl a bit and swell. (I’m crazy about ‘Swiss Giant’ or ‘Schweizer Riesen’ for the same trait, and plan to try this one this year.)
“You pull them open and put peanut butter in them–better than using celery,” she says. “They’re a perfect boat for your peanut butter.” When tasted—peanut butter or not–they quickly win converts.
Customers say, “I don’t like snow peas,” and then try some ‘Green Beauty.’ “After that it’s like. ‘I only want that one, no more snap peas.’” Puffer pods, it is—with a side order of a Pisum rainbow.
WHILE YOU’RE over at the Peace Seedlings website, have a look at super-tall double-flowered marigold like ‘La Ribera,’ great for cutting or to make a blooming hedge (3 to 6 feet!), and also at the newest Peace zinnia, ‘Morfire’ (above photo), an “interbreeding population” of tall plants with red and pink multitone flowers with gold edging. Other Peace specialties I have enjoyed growing:
- Beautiful 3 Root Grex beets, in a beety rainbow of colors from one sowing
- Edible Andean tubers like oca (below), yacon and mashua
- How I plant peas (hopefully between mid-March and maybe April 10 here in Zone 5B)
- Why I grow a fall crop, too
(Photos except ‘Sugar Magnolia’ and oca courtesy of Peace Seedlings.)