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The Asparagus Pea is an unusual low growing plant which produces attractive red flowers followed by angular pods which should be picked small - no longer then 3cm, larger pods will become stringy. For cooking the pods are best steamed as this keeps their asparagus like flavour.
The plants require plenty of moisture, provide this and you will be harvesting Aparagus Pea throughout August and September.
The asparagus pea, also known as the winged pea and goa bean, is an unusual and little known half hardy annual, grown for its angular pods. The small bush like plants produce striking dark red, pea type flowers, which will then form pea-like pods. The pods are edible, rich in protein and taste of asparagus hence the name. The pods are best when picked at around 3cm in length and are cooked by gently boiling for about 5 minutes. Many people recommend steaming the asparagus pods and serving with butter. They are also suitable for use in stir fry dishes.
Seeds can be sown indoors in pots or modular trays during March and April or sown directly outdoors from the end of May onwards. Soaking the seeds overnight prior to sowing can help speed up the germination period. Sow one seed per pot or module of seed compost and cover with compost then water the pots. Germination usually takes about 5-7 days under glass. The plants will need to acclimatise in a cold frame or cold greenhouse before being planted outdoors.
Growing in pots
The short bushy plants are well suited for growing in pots or containers and with their dark red pea-like flowers they look right at home growing on a patio. The plants require full sun, however ensure the plants are kept well watered.
Growing in beds
Asparagus pea can be grown successfully outdoors in prepared beds on the vegetable plot or in the herb garden. Plant out the young plants or sow seeds directly at about 30cm apart in a sunny position and keep well watered. Remove weeds as they appear. The plants can be a little slow growing at first and will only reach around 30cm-40cm in height when fully grown. They don’t usually require any support.
The asparagus pea originates from New Guinea so needs plenty of sun in order to grow healthily and produce tasty pods. Applying a mulch around the base of growing plants will help to retain soil moisture, and removing any weeds nearby will help to keep the plants free of pests. Apply a liquid feed every 10 days to encourage more flower growth and ultimately more seed pod production.
Pests and diseases
Asparagus peas are generally disease free but can be affected by similar pests to other pea and bean plants. Black fly is the most common pest, which can be treated with jets of water if noticed early, otherwise the application of an insecticidal soap will generally keep the pests under control.
Harvesting and storage
The pods can be harvested all through the summer but it’s not advisable to pick any pods that are more than 3cm long, as they will become stringy and lose their distinct flavour. However, do pick the older pods from the plants and discard to encourage the plants to produce more flowers and new pods. Asparagus pea pods are suitable for freezing.
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