One of the more interesting packs of seeds we received from our seedy penpal, Hayley (@fleurmania), was asparagus pea. Neither an asparagus or a pea, it’s actually a bean with something of an identity crisis. The name comes from its small pea-sized pods that taste a bit like asparagus and it also masquerades under several aliases, including ‘winged pea’, ‘goa bean’, ‘four-angled bean’, ‘mountain bean’, ‘square bean’, ‘dragon bean’ and ‘phoenix feather pea’.
Apparently you can eat the whole plant – the leaves cooked as you would spinach and the roots cooked like potatoes. Even the maroon flowers can be used as a food colouring.
Its merits on the veg plot throw up a difference of opinion. A split pea, it would seem. Home grown revolutionary James Wong is very enthusiastic, describing them as having a “true gourmet flavour with none of the fuss.” Over on twitter, @ShaunMum loves the way they look, informing us that “the plants are fascinating, leaves close at night, lovely flowers. Have to grow lots for a portion”. Cheshire veg grower @vegmen is less impressed, commenting “disappointed on the flavour, they grow beautifully but not much to them and fiddly to prep.”
We started ours off in a seed tray on the windowsill a few weeks ago and they’ve just started to show their first leaves. We’ll be hoping to get them planted out in around six weeks time.