The Extreme Gardener

Experiments in permaculture and
other gardening adventures in northeastern Vermont

Pet peas – De Grace

February 25th, 2008

I really like edible podded peas, and make about 5 succession plantings to have a steady supply from mid June to the end of September. Each planting of snow or snap peas is a 12 foot row on chicken wire support, and gives us enough for two people to eat their heart’s content daily, with enough for seed saving as well.

First of June, pea De Grace along bed edge, with Over-Winter spinach and volunteer cilantro, volunteer pak-choi and volunteer garlic.

I’m not keen on canned and frozen vegetables, with a few exceptions. My preference is always to have food as unprocessed as possible…. especially when I’m the food processor. Not that I ‘m lazy (well, maybe a little), but when supper time approaches, I pretty consistently gravitate to the edible podded peas as opposed to the green peas that must be shelled. I’ve grown quite a few varieties of green shell peas, but have only kept one or two long term over the years, largely out of guilt because they are nice varieties and were abandoned by the seed industry.

Anyway, each year now our first and last planting of the eat-all peas is a snow pea called De Grace. Originally, I purchased De Grace in 1985 from William Dam Seeds, a Canadian seed house with Dutch connections. (They no longer ship seed to the US — I miss them!)

Dam dropped this variety soon after I got it from them, and according to the Seeds of Diversity Heritage Plants Database, De Grace has not been offered by US or Canadian seedhouses in more than 20 years. I found one 2007 commercial listing by a Thomas Etty, in the UK, who specializes in heirloom varieties, but sells only in the EU. This variety was also known as Dutch Sugar and is mentioned by both names in the The American Gardener’s Magazine and Register of Useful Discoveries and Improvements in Horticulture and Rural Affairs, Vol II, 1836. (Love those 19th century book titles…)

Actually, I didn’t realize it was so venerable – De Grace was adopted into my botanical menagerie because it’s really good all around, and it thrives in my garden and the short growing season.

not ready yet

It’s early and more frost resistant than some of the other peas I’ve tried, definitely more so than the modern snap peas, and it’s quite heat tolerant, too. So, De Grace has become my “bookends” for the yearly pea succession.

Once you know the trick of harvesting them, they are very delicious. They are OK harvested when the pods are still small and flat, like most people harvest snow peas (see photo at right), but if you allow the peas to fatten in the pod (below), the sugars form and they are divinely sweet and crisp. You do have to snap off the stem end and pull off the strings, but this is easily accomplished in one quick motion.

ready to eat

In my garden De Grace continues to flower and bear peas over a long period of time (3-4 weeks), and I have been selecting seed for that characteristic among others. I suppose some growers might consider this a vice, but I’m not canning or freezing them, I just want an ongoing supply of fresh pods.

De Grace is a good example of a vegetable variety teetering on the brink of being lost to gardeners. I find that a lot of these older plant varieties seem to have a lot more genetic diversity and are better able to adapt to the rigors of life in my garden than many of the more modern varieties.

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8 Responses to “Pet peas – De Grace”

  1. Marcia Ambler says:

    Thank you dearly for your comments on the amazing DeGrace pea. I was thinking of ordering some from rareseeds.com, but wasn’t sure if they would be right for my small Utah garden…we are right up against some huge, very snowy mountains here. Well, it appears they will be just right from your thorough and very informative description, and I really wanted to show my appreciation. I will be saving these precious seeds every year and replanting them, if they prove to be as good as they seem in your description. Gratefully yours,
    Marcia Ambler

  2. The Extreme Gardener says:

    Hi Marcia – glad you found this post useful, and I think you will like De Grace. For those of us with a really short and cool growing season, it’s so great to be able to share info about what varieties work…

  3. Grace Keenan says:

    Hi–I just found your site, and love it. I just planted de Grace peas yesterday (had to try them because of the name). I got them from http://www.rareseeds.com, which has an amazing variety of heirloom seeds. Thank you for all the info you present on yor site–I’ll be spending a lot of time here learning from you.

  4. Sunshine at last! « A Bee in the City says:

    […] they’re even better if you wait to eat them till the pods fatten up, so I’ll try that next time.  Here is the post for those interested; the blog in general looks to be interesting too.  And while I was at it, I […]

  5. Cindi says:

    How many days will it be after planting in the fall before I can eat any of these wonderfully described peas? I’m an organic grower and work the local farmers market. I’m wondering if it’s too late to plant now.

    Thanks for the information on your sight. I also order all my seeds from http://www.rareseeds.com.

  6. the extreme gardener says:

    Cindi, I don’t know where you are gardening, so I don’t know if it’s too late for you to sow them. It’s usually around 75 days from sowing to having them fill out, but it’s quite variable depending on the weather. Here, I wouldn’t sow them after about July 10.

  7. ChiotsRun says:

    Thanks for the tip about waiting to harvest until they are bigger. I’m growing these for the first time this year. I’m looking forward to it.

  8. DJ says:

    Great article! I just planted De Grace in Missouri today. As a master gardener with the Heart of Missouri Master Gardeners I enjoy planting heirloom vegetables in my garden and the groups share a row community learning garden. Already dreaming about the harvest.

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