If they didn’t taste so darn good, I don’t think growing shelling peas would be worth it. I just picked about two and a half pounds of gorgeous pea pods, spent about half an hour shelling them, and ended up with just over a pound of shelled beauties (the pods of these guys, unfortunately, are too tough and stringy to eat fresh, so I fed them to the chickens – I wonder if I could make a blended pea pod soup out of them, though?). So after probably 15 minutes of picking I got $10 worth of shelling peas + pods (at the current local farmers’ market rate of $4/lb) – not so bad. But another half hour later, and I have a pound of shelled organic peas, which I could have gotten frozen and already shelled for only $4.14!
But yes, they are delicious, and a great cool-season filler crop for late winter/early spring. A few notes on the varieties I grew this year:
Golden Sweet – Actually a snow pea, not a shelling pea, this has been very productive, with sweet (even as they get a little over-mature), tender yellow pods that are easy to spot among the green foliage. (Most of the peas haven’t even made it into the house, as both I and my toddler happily munch on them all day long outside.) A pretty plant with lovely pink flowers. Very vigorous, the vines are currently 6-7 feet tall in my garden.
Blauwschokker – Incredibly productive vines with pretty pink and purple bicolored flowers and dark purple pods that are very easy to spot among the vines. The pods also turn your hands a lovely shade of purple during shelling (and turn the baby’s face a lovely shade of purple when he eats them!). The peas themselves, while good, are less tender and sweet than those of either Tall Telephone or Golden Sweet.
Tall Telephone – Less productive vines than Golden Sweet or Blauwschokker, though they are in the same garden bed (though perhaps this is because they germinated sooner and several of the seedlings got picked off by birds, which wasn’t a problem with the other varieties). Individual pods are very full, though, with usually 8-10 peas per pod, and the peas are very sweet, tender, and vibrantly green.
Although Blauwschokker isn’t as sweet as Tall Telephone, and Tall Telephone hasn’t been as productive as Blauwschokker for me this year, I think I will continue to grow both (Blauwshokker, of course, for its increased productivity and Tall Telephone for its better flavor). And I will most definitely continue growing Golden Sweet, as it has been my favorite overall! I think next year I need to start my peas a little earlier, since I’d kind of counted on them being done by now so I could plant my beans in the same spot (or maybe I should simply plan on planting a different crop that matures faster in their spot once they’re finished).