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Peas

  1. Documentary References to Peas
  2. Discussion
  3. Pea Varieties
    1. Field Peas
    2. Rounceval
    3. Marriwfat
    4. Spanish Morroto
    5. Early & Dwarf Peas
    6. Sugar
    7. Blue Prussian
    8. Cowpeas

I. Documentary References to Peas

Advertisements for Peas in the Virginia Gazette:

Jan. 13, 1737, Thomas Crease, gardener at the Governor's Palace Garden: Pease

Nov. 30, 1759, Christopher Ayscough, gardener at Governor's Palace: Six weeks pease, Charlton Hotspur pease, Marrowfat pease, Nonpareil pease, Spanish morrotto pease, Sugar dwarf pease

Dec. 31, 1771, Greenhow Store: early Garden Peas

Oct. 28, 1772, Robert Nicolson Shop: Earliest Pease

Dec. 31, 1772, John Carter Store: Early Golden Hotspur pea seeds, Early Charlton pea seeds, Ledman's dwarf pea seeds, Dwarf Marrow pea seeds, Short sugar pea seeds

Dec. 16, 1773, John Carter Store: Egg pea seeds, Hotspur pea seeds, Dwarf Marrowfat pea seeds, Split pea seeds

March 3, 1774, James Wilson, gardener at the College: PEASE earliest, best Charlton, Golden Hotspur, Nonpareil, Marrowfat, Green Rouncival, Spanish Moratto, Glory of England

April 6, 1775, John Carter Store: Charlton's early pease, golden hotspur pease, Nichol's early pease, dwarf marrowfat pease, egg pease, Leadman's pease, short sugar pease, Spanish Morotto pease, very fine split pease

Sept. 9, 1775, Myles Taylor Store, Richmond (repeated 3/3/76): early Charlton Pease, Ormand Hotspur do., Large Marrowfat do., Dwarf Marrowfat do., Ledman's Dwarf do., Winter do.

March 6, 1778, Col. Trent;s store, Mancester: early Hotspur pease, Charlton do., May do. Bunch do., Canary rich soup do., tall rich Italian, Rounceval Sallad

March 7, 1792, Minton Collins, Richmond: Early peas, Early Nicholas peas, Early Charlton peas, Dwarf marrowfat peas

Jan. 24, 1793, Minton Collins, Richmond: Early Frame pease, Golden Hotspur do., Charlton do., Dwarf Marrowfat do., Spanish Moratto do.

Virginia references to Peas:

Feb. 22, 1770, Mann Page order to John Norton Company: Charlton Peas, large Marrow fat Do., Large Sugar Pea, Dwarf Do.

Aug. 29, 1771, Nelson Letter Book to John Norton Company: winged or grey peas

Sept. 7, 1771, Robert Carter Nicholas to John Norton Company: earliest Pease, midling do., latest Sort do.

Feb. 15, 1773, Robert Beverly Letter Book: Charlton Hotspur Pease, Marrow Fat

1780, Richard Henry Lee Memoradum Book: M. Lawson's Forward English Pea, 40 day pea (Mr. Geo. Turbeville), Green Spring Early Pea, Chantilly Pea (Lee's Home), Early Pea of Hull, Lawsons Hot Spur Pea, Green Spring, May Pea

1787: Spanish Marratta Pea, Marrow Fat Pea, Sallad Peas of the May Pea kind

1789, Col. Francis Taylor Diary (first citation): Midling Peas, Late Peas

1791: Peas, large Sort Peas, best Sort French Peas

1792: Dwarf Peas, Soup Peas,, Marrowfat or Nonpareil Peas

1794: Bunch or Dwarf Peas, Small White Pea

1795: Early Crowder Peas

1797, Jones Family Papers: Forward Peas, Marrowfat Peas, Forty Days Peas

1793, A Treatise on Gardening, John Randolph (written c. 1765): Charlton Hotspur, Reading Hotspur, Master Hotspur, Rouncival, Spanish Marollo, Marrowfat or Dutch Admiral, Ormunds

1775 - 1786, Monthly Kalender & Garden Book, Joseph Prentis: Almans Hot Spur, Charltons Hot Spur, Dwarf Dwarf Marrow Fat, Early Pea, Flowering Pea, Hot Spur, Marrow Fat, Ormans, Master Hotspu,r Six Week

Garden Book, Thomas Jefferson (first citation): Forwardest (1767), earliest of all (1767), latest (1767), middling (1767), Hotspur (1768), early (1768), Spanish Marotto (1768), latter (1772), Marrowfat (1773), black-eyed (1774), bunch (1774), cluster (1774), forward (1774), pearl, (1778), Marley (1786), pearl-eyed (1794), white-eyed (1794), dwarf early (1794), small green (1794), Black Indian (1794), early Charlton (1794), field (1795), split (1796), white (1796), white boiling (1796), Albany (1796), cow (1796), hog (1796), frame (1803), Arkansas (1807), Lewis's (1807), Ravenscroft (1807), Ravensworth (1808), African (1809), Leadman's (1809), crouder (1809), gray (1809), long pod soup (1809), Prussian Blue (1809), garavance (1813), chick (1814), Mazzei (1814), long haricot (1814), Hunter's (1818), May (1819), Leitch's (1821), small white table (1824)

II. Discussion:

Peas (Pisum sativum) are among the most ancient of agricultural crops known to man, equally as ancient as wheat and barley. The progenitor of the modern pea has never been found and is likely extinct but it is thought to have originated somewhere in central Asia between Afghanistan and northern India. The domestic pea may have arisen as a cross between Pisum humile, a short statured pea from the Near East and Pisum elatius, a tall climber from the humid regions of the Mediterranean to produce Pisum sativus. (Sauer, Historical Geography of Crop Plants, 1993). However, recent research has found all three species to be genetically indistinguishable so the origin of the cultivated pea is still in question. Today only two species are recognized, P. sativum and P. fulvaum and all cultivated varieties of pea are classified as varieties of P. sativum. (Smartt & Simmonds, Evolution of Crop Plants, 1995). Neolithic excavations in the Near East have found carbonized peas dating to 7000 BCE and by 6500 BCE examples are found with water permeable, smooth seeds coats, indicating a loss of wild dormancy and thereby suggesting domestication. By 5000 BCE cultivation had spread to Egypt, Cyprus, Crete and through Greece into the Balkans. By 4000 BCE cultivation of the pea appears to be widespread in central Europe and by 2000 BCE cultivation had spread to France, Spain and north to Denmark. (Sauer, Historical Geography of Crop Plants, 1993).

Curiously, neither Cato (149 BCE) or Varro (27 BCE) list the pea among Roman crops. Pliny (Natural History, Book XVIII, 57, c. 75 CE) lists peas among the field crops but does not list them among the garden plants and peas apparently were of only minor importance to the Romans. The English word pea derives from the Greek pison, which the Romans Latinized to pisum and was adopted by the English, originally, as peason. By the early 17th century the word had become pease and, partly because of a confusion over rather or not this referred to the plant in the plural form, pea was adopted in the 18th century for the singular while pease was retained for the plural.

Iron Age excavations at Glastonbury England have uncovered peas but they are not thought to be cultivated varieties. There is no clear reference to the pea in England until after the Norman Conquest in 1066. Among the food staples listed at the 12th century Barking Nunnery were "green peas for Lent" (Boswell, Our Vegetable Travelers, Nat. Geo., 1949). Peas are listed by Alexander Neckam in De Naturis Rerum (c. 1200), by William Langland in Piers Plowman (1362); "a potful of peasun," and by Henry Daniel in De re Herbaria (1375). An early reference suggesting the use of peas as a garden plant, rather than as a field crop comes from a record of the estate at Talworth in Long Ditton (Surrey) in 1229 where a theft of peas and beans from a garden occurs. Green peas (pisa viridis), again suggesting the sweeter garden variety, are listed in England in 1318 (Harvey, Midiaval Gardens, 1981).

Peas are an important staple crop throughout Medieval Europe. In Expenses of Collegiate and Monastic Houses, 1403 - 1538, peas are listed 143 times (Rogers, History of Agricultue and Prices in England) and until late in the 17th century peas are grown almost exclusively as a field crop. Peas are not cited among the extensive list of garden vegetables by Master John Gardener in The Feat of Gardening (c.1400) nor are they found in Fromond's list of plants from c. 1500. William Turner records in The Names of Herbes (1548) for Pisum, "They growe communely in the fieldes." Charles Estienne, in the French work Maison Rustique (1616) does not list peas among the many vegetable varieties found in The Second Booke, Of Gardens, but does list peason along with wheat and other grains in The Fifth Booke, Of Arable Grounds. Peas are not found in the long list of garden vegetables in The Expert Gardener (1640) nor are they included in the seed catalog of William Lucas (Lucas att Naked Boy near Strand Bridge, London) in 1677.

While garden peas seem to be somewhat rare, they are not unknown. Perhaps the first named variety of pea, indicating a superior variety, in England was the Hastings. John Lydgate, a Benedictine monk of Bury St. Edmunds, writes a poem portraying London street life in the middle of the 15th century that includes the line: "Fresh gathered peas, young Hastings!" (Webber, Early Horticulturists, 1968). This is probably the same large early pea (gros poys hastiz) that was planted in the garden of the Archbishop of Rouen in 1486 as well as the "hastyngez" pea grown in the gardens of St. Augustines, Bristol in 1491 (Harvey, Mediaval Gardens, 1981). Parkinson records both white and green Hastings in Paradisi in Sol (1629) and the order book of Sir John Foulis at Ravelston (1680 - 1690), near Edinburgh includes a reference to "Haistines." That this was a distinctive variety from the common field pea seems to be indicated in Worlidge's The Gardeners Monthly Directions (1688) for the month of April where he lists "Pease and Hastings." The Hasting comes to North America some time in the 17th century although there are few references to it. In the diary of Samuel Sewall, a Harvard graduate and resident of Boston he records on June 4, 1689: Green Hastings, ie Pease are cry'd at 6d a Peck in little carts." This pea seems to disappear early in the 18th century; the last citation I can find is for "large green & white Hastings" in Bailey's Dictionarium rusticum (1717).

By the end of the 15th century the Rounceval pea was developed in the gardens of the Hospital of St. Mary of Roncesvalles at Charing Cross (Harvey, Midiaval Gardens, 1981). This was another superior variety as suggested by Tusser in 500 Points of Good Husbandry (1573) for the month of January:

"Dig garden, stroy mallow, now may at ease
And set (as a dainte) thy runciuall pease"

This pea survives for over three hundred years until finally disappearing, in this country, sometime in the first half of the 19th century.

There were apparently peas of an even sweeter sort developed in Holland but they were found only on the wealthiest tables as they were expensive, when they could be found at all. It is probably this sweeter variety of garden pea that Thomas Fuller (1608 - 1661) refers to in Elizabethan England as: "fit dainties for ladies, they come so far, and cost so dear (Phillips, History of Cultivated Plants, 1822). These varieties may have been introduced by Dutch and French protestants who immigrated to the Sandwich area of southern England in the middle of the 16th century and by 1658 are selling seeds for the "Sandwich pea." Leonard Meager lists the Sandwich pea in The English Gardener (1683) but it seems to disappear by the 18th century.

Garden peas, as opposed to field peas, were known in England by the start of the 17th century although there is still a class distinction between the types of peas available. John Parkinson writes in Paradisi in Sol (1629): "Peas of all or most of these sorts, are either used when they are greene, and be a dish of meate for the table of the rich as well as poore, yet every one observing his time, and the kinde: the fairest, sweetest, youngest, and earliest for the better sort, the later and meaner kinds for the meaner, who do not give the deerest price." Parkinson records that the typical pea for the general population is still the soup pea. "Being dry, they serve to boyle into a kinde of broth or pottage…and is much used in Towne and Countrey in the Lent time, especially of the poorer sort of people."

This distinction seems to remain true throughout most of the century. John Worlidge writes in Systema Hort-iculturae (1677): "Pease are of divers kinds…the meaner sort of them have been long acquainted…but the sweet and delicate sorts of them have been introduced to our gardens only in this latter age." The introduction of the better forms of garden pea to England was likely a result of the restoration of Charles II who brought a taste for French fashion on his return from the court of Louis XIV in 1660. The French were famous for their obsession with peas. Catherine de' Medici brought "pisella novelli" with her from Florence in 1533 for her marriage to Henry II and they quickly attained a reputation as a royal dish. As boiled peas were a staple with French peasants this was clearly a new and much sweeter pea. This pea was apparently lost and then reintroduced during the reign of Louis XIV as the petit pois and were once again hailed as a novelty.

In a May 10, 1695 letter from Mme. De Maintenoy (often attributed to Mme. De Sévigné) to Cardinal de Noailles she writes: "The subject of peas is being treated at length: impatience to eat them, the pleasure of having eaten them, and the longing to eat them again are the three points about which our princes have been talking for four days. There are some ladies who, after having supped with the King, and well supped too, help themselves to peas at home before going to bed at the risk of indigestion. It is both a fashion and a madness." Gatien Courtilz de Sandras records in The life of the famous John Baptist Colbert (1695): "It is frightful to see persons sensual enough to purchase green peas at the price of 50 crowns per litron."

By the first quarter of the 18th century the garden pea is a well known, very popular and a widely available component of the kitchen garden. Switzer writes in The Practical Kitchen Gardiner (1727) that peas are "justly accounted one of the greatest delicacies of the garden." The proliferation of individual types of garden pea is demonstrated in Richard Bradley's New Improvements (1724) in which he lists a number of varieties and then states that there are "at least fifty other kinds that I have heard of," all with similar attributes and laments; "I have often wonder'd at the Indiscretion of some People, who Delight in giving cramp Names to Plants, and make it their Business to multiply Species without Reason, as if a Fruit would be the better for a Name." The English quickly develop their own types of peas, especially varieties of the Hotspur pea such as Ormands, Master's and Readings. Batty Langley, in New Principles of Gardening (1728) gives the origin of the Master's Hotspur as being developed by a gardener of the same name "now living at Strand in the Green, near old Brentford in Middlesex."

William Hanbury addresses the proliferation of pea varieties in A complete body of planting (1771) where, after listing twenty five varieties of peas he concedes: "A person who is not desirous of running great lengths in the culture of Peas, may have his table sufficiently supplied by only four sorts…for the first crop, the early Charlton; for the second, the dwarf Marrow-fat; for the third, the Spanish Morotto; and for the last, the old English Rouncival." With the possible exception of the Rouncival, these are the varieties that seem to be most favored in 18th century Virginia.

The pea is one of the first exports to the New World. Pierre Martyr d' Anghiera, historiographer to King Ferdinand, accompanied Columbus to the New World in 1493 and recorded that they planted "peason on Isabela Island" [Dominican Republic]. Early accounts of peas in North America are often confused in that European explorers usually called our native beans, peas. For example, the "peasons" which are listed as being used by the native people by Cartier (1535) and Smith (1608) were almost certainly members of the Phaseolus, or bean family. The English, on the other hand, are clearly planting peas in the earliest years of colonization. In Hariot's A Brief and true report of the new found land of Virginia (1588) he records: "Of the grouth you need not to doubt; for barlie, oates and peaze, we have seen proof of." Captain Gosnold records in 1602 that "pulse" (peas) planted in the "North part of Virginia [Massachusetts] sprouted out in one fortnight almost half a foot." At Jamestown Alexander Whitaker records in Good News from Virginia (1613), "Our English seeds thrive very will here, as Pease, Onions, Turneps."

Garden peas seem to be as popular in the colonies as they are in England judging from the number of times they appear in advertisements, order books and plantation diaries. Thomas Jefferson is famous for his love of peas and even organizes a competition among his neighbors on who could produce the first peas of the year. Jefferson's eldest grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph recalls this competition in a letter to Mr. Randall in which the person with the first peas invites the other members of the competition to dinner to share the harvest: "A wealthy neighbor [Mr. George Divers], without children, and fond of horticulture, generally triumphed. Mr. Jefferson, on one occasion had them first, and when his family reminded him that it was his right to invite the company, he replied, "No, say nothing about it, it will be more agreeable to our friend to think that he never fails." This is apparently the case in an April, 1815 letter from Mr. Divers to Jefferson: "We returned home yesterday from a visit of several days and I did not examine into the state of our peas till late in the evening, when I found them quite ready…We should be glad you will come up and partake of our first dish today & that Mr. Maddison would come with you."

Many of the peas grown by the Virginia colonists have disappeared. Marrowfat peas are still available and while probably similar, it is not certain if they are the same as 18th century varieties. By 1807, Martyn records in The Gardener's and Botanist's Dictionary that the "Rose, Rouncival, sickle, tufted and hotspur peas are lost" One of the reasons that so many of these peas, many of them with hundreds of years of use, disappear is the rapid development of new, sweeter varieties late in the 18th century and throughout the 19th century with the birth of the modern plant breeding processes. The famed British plant physiologist, Thomas Andrew Knight (1759 - 1838) began the process of controlled breeding of peas from a wrinkled degenerate found within a field of smooth peas. This resulted in the introduction of many superior pea varieties that carried his name such as Knight's Dwarf White Marrow, Knight's Tall Wrinkled Marrow, etc. and remained popular well into the 19th century. Knight even published a paper in 1823 demonstrating dominant and recessive traits in peas but did not make the leap to the inheritance properties of alleles Mendel was to accomplish 30 years later.

III. Pea Varieties

A. Field Peas

Often classified as Pisum sativum arvense, these are smooth seeded peas. The most ancient varieties seem to be white seeded although grey and brown seeded varieties are also included in this group and they are probably nearest in appearance to the ancestor of the modern pea. The white seeded variety is the source of the split pea today. Gerard writes in The Herball (1597) of "Pisum minus: field Pease is so well knowne to all that it were a needlesse labour to spend time about the description." He also includes the garden pea under this classification so by this time there does seem to be some distinction made between varieties of this pea suited for the field or garden, presumably based on sugar content. Leonard Meager writes in The English Gardener (1683) that the ordinary white peas are "sown after the manner of Field-Pease" indicating a similarity between the field and garden pea. It is around this time that the better varieties begin to appear and start to replace the old field pea as the garden pea of choice. The field peas generally have multicolored flowers, as opposed to the white flowered varieties that become the common garden pea.

Perhaps the most ancient variety still in existence is the Carlin Pea. This is a tall gray/brown pea with sweetly scented bright purple-red flowers. The name derives from the English holiday of Carlin Sunday which derives from the old English Care or Carle Sunday, the second Sunday before Easter. In a tradition dating to the 12th century, peas were given to the poor on this occasion (Weaver, HeirloomVegetable Gardening, (1997)

The most common field pea in England in the 18th century is the grey or hog pea although a great number of varieties are used for livestock feed. Baily's Dictionarium rusticum (1717) lists the Henley Gray and Red-Shank as field peas. Ellis's Husbandry (1746) lists both the white and grey Cobham and the Windsor grey Hog-pease. There are few references to field peas in 18th century Virginia although Jefferson, in a 1796 letter to George Washington, writes: "I am trying the white boiling pea of Europe (the Albany) this year, till I can get the hog pea of England, which is the most productive of all."

B. Rouncival Pea

The Rouncival is developed in the gardens of the Hospital of St. Mary of Roncesvalles at Charing Cross probably between 1450 and 1500 (Harvey, Midiaval Gardens, 1981). This was a large, very late season pea that would be considered a soup pea today rather than a green pea. The Rounseval is the only pea mentioned in Hills, The Gardener's Labyrinth (1577) perhaps indicating that this was the first widely known garden pea, as opposed to the well known field pea. It is possible that this was the first white flowered garden pea, again making a clear distinction between field and garden peas. Gerard describes it in The Herball (1597) as "Pisum maius [majus] or the "great Pease" as the seeds are larger than the common garden or field pea. "The floure is white and hath about the middle of it a purple foot. The seeds, which being drie are cornered , and that unequal, of colour sometimes white and sometimes gray."

By the late 17th century there are a number of varieties of Rouncival. John Wolridge, in Systema Horti-culturae (1688) lists the "grey, green, blew, white and Maple" and writes: "the large white and green Rouncival and the great Egg Pease we shall more particularly advise to be propagated in our Gardens." The largest of the Rouncival peas seems to be the Maple. Leonard Meager describes the "Rouncefal" in The English Gardener (1683) as a large pea, "especially the great Maple." By the 18th century the Egg pea appears to be synonymous with the Rouncival and it is also called the Dutch Admiral: "the Rouncival, or Egg Pea, which is also call'd the Dutch Admiral" (Bradley, New Improvements, 1724). The Rouncival is listed in Virginia only by Randolph, in A Treatise on Gardening and in an advertisement for seeds in the Virginia Gazette (1774) by James Wilson, gardener at the college, indicating that it is falling out of favor. Amelia Simmons writes in New England in American Cookery (1796) that the "Roudeheval is large and bitterish." This is a common attribute of the field type, or soup peas, in that they tend to be bitter if used green. This seems to be supported in Ellis's Husbandry (1746) in which he describes the "Maple pea for either Hog or Boiling." This transition to a field type pea is also suggested in Philip Miller's The Gardener's Dictionary (1754) in which he describes the green and Maple Rouncivals as field peas. Rouncivals are occasionally mentioned in the 19th century in this country (McMahon, American Gardener's Calendar, 1806; Gardener and Hepburn, The American Gardener, 1818; Johnson, The Farmer's and Planters Encyclopedia, 1855) but it is not listed among the 172 varieties of peas cataloged by Burr in Field and Garden Vegetables of America (1865) and disappears entirely after this time.

C. Marrowfat pea

This pea is distinguished today as Pisum sativum, var. medullare. It is another large, late season pea that seems to emerge early in the 18th century. It is not listed in Bradley's New Improvements (1724) but is included in Switzer's The Practical Kitchen Gardiner (1727) and in Langley's New Principles of Gardening (1728) as "The marrow Pease, vulgarly called marrow fat Pease." After this time the Marrowfat is listed by all authors. It is possible that it is a Marrowfat pea that Bailey refers to in Dictionarium rusticum (1717): "Besides which there is another very large, gray, and extraordinary sweet Pea that is but lately propagated, and deserves a large Bed in your Kitchen Garden." The Marrowfat is certainly recognized as an improved variety of large pea and seems to take the place of the Rouncival. Miller writes in The Gardeners Dictionary (1754): "The best of all the large Kinds is the Marrow-fat." Abercrombie and Mawe agree in Every Man his own Gardener (1782) writing: "This pea is much admired in most families."

A dwarf variety of Marrowfat appears in the second half of the 18th century. The Dwarf Marrowfat is not listed in the 1754 edition Philip Miller's The Gardeners Dictionary but is listed in the 1768 edition. This appears to be a somewhat earlier variety than the tall as it is listed as being an earlier crop than either the Spanish Morotto or the Rouncival by Hanbury in A complete body of planting (1771). The Marrowfat is a well known pea in colonial America but it is not near as sweet as the early season varieties and was likely used as a soup pea. Amelia Simmons writes in American Cookery (1796): "Marrow fats, green, yellow and is large, easily cultivated, not equal to others."

The origin of the Marrowfat pea is obscure. It is possible that it descends from the Rouncival but it is always listed as a separate variety by 18th century authors. Hendrick has suggested in Peas of New York (1928) that the Rouncival may have been a wrinkled pea while the Marrowfat was a smooth pea. They are both large peas, generally used for soups and were probably quite similar. Miller, in The Gardeners Dictionary (1754) uses Dutch Admiral to describe a Marrowfat, a term usually reserved for the Rouncival. Wrinkled peas are first described in Europe by HieronymusTragus (Jerome Glass of bier) in De Stirpium (1552). John Ray, in Historia Plantarum (1686) identifies the Rouncival as a wrinkled pea and refers to Gerards illustration in The Herball (1597). Lisle, in Observations on Husbandry (1708, published 1756) seems to be referring to a Rouncival as having seeds which are honey combed or pitted. (Hendrick, Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, 1919).

Gerard's illustration shows a cornered pea but it does not appear to be wrinkled. The Clutius Watercolors, compiled in Holland, late in the 16th century, shows a large, apparently wrinkled pea labeled as "Pisum Romanum." Gerard gives Pisum Romanum as a synonym for the Rouncival pea. However, the flowers of Pisum Romanum in the Clutius Watercolors are colored with rose viens while Gerard writes that the Rouncival pea has white flowers. The white flowered pea in the Clutius Watercolors is a much smaller pea with smooth seeds, suggesting that it is neither the Rouncival nor the Marrowfat and is likely a very early illustration of the sweeter, smaller peas that became popular late in the 17th century.

By the 19th century there are both smooth and wrinkled varieties of Marrowfat, many of wrinkled varieties were introduced by Thomas Andrew Knight. Knight begins his breeding work from an aberrant wrinkled pea found in a field of smooth seeded peas so it is possible that this original selection was in a field of smooth Marrowfats and would suggest that this was the original form. Both smooth and wrinkled Marrowfats are still available but the term Marrowfat has been used to describe a wide variety of large soup type peas over the years. While the smooth varieties are likely similar to the 18th century pea it is impossible to know if they show the same attributes. A smooth variety of Marrowfat, either tall or dwarf, would probably be most appropriate for our gardens.

D. Spanish Morotto pea

This is another large, late season pea. It seems to appear at about the same time as the Marrowfat, first listed by Switzer The Practical Kitchen Gardiner (1727) and in Langley's New Principles of Gardening (1728). Like the Marrowfat, it is listed by all authors after this time. Miller classifies it as a pea which is somewhat smaller and earlier than the Marrowfat and "is a great Bearer, and an hardy Sort of Pea." It is as well known in the American colonies as it is in England. Robert Squibb writes in The Gardener's Calendar (1787): "The marrowfat and Spanish morotto, being of the large kind, are both fine eating peas, and great bearers." Amelia Simmons, in American Cookery (1796) writes: "Spanish Manratto, is a rich Pea, requires a strong high bush." By the 19th century, this and the other large, starchy type peas start to fall out of favor. George Lindley, in A Guide to Orchard and Kitchen Garden (1831) observes that both the Egg pea (Rouncival) and Spanish Marotta are poor man's peas (Weaver, Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, 1997). It seems to disappear in the middle of the 19th century, at about the same time as the Rouncival.

E. Early and Dwarf peas

These are the early season peas that become the most prized varieties of peas both in the colonies and in Europe. The first mention of early peas comes in Parkinson's Paradisi in Sol (1629) where he lists "early or French Pease" and it is likely that the first varieties come out of Holland and France. Josephus Tournefort records in Institutiones rei herbariae (1719) that the first dwarf varieties appeared around 1665. These are also the hardiest peas, often planted for a winter crop and because of their small stature were used in hot beds for a late winter harvest. The early season pea comes into common use in the last quarter of the 17th century and the first named variety seems to be the Hotspur. Messrs. Lawson, in Agriculturist's Manual, Edinburgh (1836) records that the Hotspur dates to 1670. This pea is listed by Meager, The English Gardener (1683), Worlidge, Systema Horti-culturae (1688), Sir John Foulis account book for 1680 - 1690; Temple Newsom order book 1692 - 94, and by every author after this time. Worlidge writes: "Hot-spurs are the most early, pleasant and profitable of all others." John Mortimer records in The Whole Art of Husbandry (1707) that the Hotspur will go "seed to seed in six weeks."

A great number of varieties of the Hotspur are developed in the 18th century. The Reading Hotspur seems to be the first named variety of Hotspur and is probably the same as the "Redding" listed by Meager in The English Gardener (1683). Batty Langley describes the Reading Hotspur in New Principles of Gardening (1728): "Readings are of a middling Growth, rising (when sticked) about two Feet and half in height." He also records that this is a white flowered pea with a purple spot in the middle whereas the flowers of all the other Hotspurs are entirely white. Miller writes in The Gardeners Dictionary (1754) of the Hotspur: "of which there are reckon'd three of four Sorts: Charlton, Masters & Reading." By the 1768 edition of The Gardeners Dictionary Miller adds the Golden Hotspur and the Essex Hotspur. By 1775 the Ormands and Nichols Hotspurs appear.

The Charlton Hotspur is the earliest and seemingly the most popular of the Hotspurs. By the last quarter of the 18th century it is generally listed simply as the Charlton or early Charlton. It is likely that it was this variety that gave rise to almost all 19th century varieties of early peas and has even been suggested that all varieties of Hotspur peas are simply cultivar forms of the Charlton. Fearing Burr in Field and Garden Vegetables of America (1865) writes an extensive description of its history and development: "According to the Messrs. Lawson, this is the oldest, and for a long period was the best known and most extensively cultivated, of all the varieties of the white garden-peas. Its history can be traced as far back as 1670; and from that time till about 1770, or nearly a century, it continued to stand first in catalogues as the earliest pea, until it was supplanted by the Early Frame, about 1770. It is further said by some to be the source from which the most esteemed early garden varieties have arisen, and that they are nothing else than the Early Charlton Pea, considerably modified in character. It is therefore probable that the Early Frame, with its numerous sub-varieties (including the Dan O'Rourke, Prince Albert, Early Kent and a multitude of others), may have originated in the Charlton. The various names by which it has been known are Reading Hotspur, Master's or Flander's Hotspur, Golden Hotspur, Brompton Hotspur, Essex Hotspur, Early Nicol's Hotspur, Charlton Hotspur, and finally early Charlton, the last name becoming general about 1750."

Rogers, in the Vegetable Cultivator (1836) records that the Early Frame was found in a field of Early Charlton near Wingham in Kent. The Early Frame pea seems to arrive in America in the last quarter of the 18th century. The May pea is advertised by Col. Trent's Store in the Virginia Gazette in 1778. This is likely an early reference to the Early Frame. William Cobbett records in The American Gardener (1821): "The earliest of all is the little white pea, called, in Long Island, the May-Pea, and, in England, the early frame-pea." Minton Collins advertises the Early Frame pea in the Virginia Gazette in 1793 and Jefferson lists it in 1803. After this time it is listed by all American authors. The Prince Albert, developed in England before 1837 and named for the husband of Queen Victoria in 1842, is still available. This is probably the best variety to illustrate the attributes of the 18th century Hotspur.

By the early years of the 18th century there were also some exceptionally dwarf varieties of peas that were used primarily under frames on hot beds for a very early crop. Richard Bradley describes this variety in New Improvements (1724) as: "Dwarf Pease, especially the very short kind, which seldom rises higher than half a Foot…notwithstanding the smallness of this Plant, it will yield near as many Pease as one of the largest kinds." In Williamsburg John Randolph writes in A Treatise on Gardening (1793): "There are several dwarf kinds, but these are only intended to be raised in hot beds." Probably the best approximation of this variety today is the Tom Thumb pea introduced in the 1850's.

F. Sugar peas

This is an edible podded pea and appears late in the 16th century, possibly from Holland. John Gerard writes in The Herball (1597) of the different pea varieties: "some with tough skins or membranes in the cods, and other have none at all, whose cods are to be eaten with the Pease when they be young as those of young kidney Beane…[and] are exceedingly delicate meat." Nicoles de Bonnefons records in Jardinier Francais (1657): "There is a species which can be eaten green which is called the Dutch pea and was very rare not long ago." The French Ambassador de Bohy writes that they were imported from Holland around 1600 (Waverly, Food, 1980). The edible podded pea was also known in Italy at an early date. Giacomo Castelvetro writes in The Fruit, Herbs & Vegetables of Italy (1614): "Next come peas. They are the noblest of vegetables, especially those whose pods are good to eat as well."

Apparently, the sugar pea listed by Gerard had a straight pod but by the end of the 17th century this pea is generally described as have a crooked pod. John Wolridge writes in Systema Horti-culturae (1688): "The Sugar Pease with the crooked Cods, the sweetest of all." He also warns about the damage birds are likely to inflict on this crop, a hazard recorded by many authors after this time. Mortimer, The Whole Art of Husbandry (1707) records that the sugar pea, "is extraordinary sweet, the great Inconvenience that attends them is, that their extraordinary sweetness makes them liable to be devoured by Birds." Bailey, in Dictionarium rusticum (1717) describes these same attributes: "its Cod is very crooked and ill-shaped but being boil'd with the unripe Pease in them, are extraordinary sweet." He also warns about birds.

Switzer describes a variety of edible podded pea as the Sickle pea in The Practical Kitchen Gardiner (1727): "the sickle pea (so called from its crookedness) may be eaten when young, as kidney beans are." When shelled this pea provided the petit pois of the French and is possibly the variety that causes the sensation at the court of Louis XIV. Miller lists both a sickle pea and a "Pea with an esculent Husk" as distinct varieties in The Gardeners Dictionary (1754) and observes that "The Sickle-pea is much more common in Holland than in England." In the 1768 edition of The Gardeners Dictionary he lists the Sugar Pea and the Sickle Pea as distinct varieties. While the sugar pea is listed by several sources in 18th century Virginia, the sickle pea is not. However, "Sickle-Pease" are recorded by Lawson in A New Voyage to Carolina (1709).

By the middle of the 18th century there were both tall and dwarf varieties of the sugar pea. The dwarf seems to be the more common in the colonies. Amelia Simmons, in American Cookery (1796) writes of the dwarf variety: "Sugar Pea needs no bush, [support] the pods are tender and good to eat, easily grown." It is not clear how the sugar pea differed from the sickle pea but they were likely very similar varieties. The 18th century sugar pea has probably disappeared but the sickle pea is still available and probably the best representation of this class of pea available.

G. Blue Prussian pea

This variety of pea is developed in Germany and seems to appear late in the 18th century in English gardens and early in the 19th century in America. It can be used as either a dry pea or a green pea. The dried peas are light blue. They are advertised for sale by George French in the Virginia Herald (Fredericksburg, 1800), by Bernard McMahon in Philadelphia (1806) and recorded by Jefferson in 1809. They are one of the most popular late season peas in the first half of the 19th century. Fearing Burr records in Field and Garden Vegetables of America (1865): "It produces abundantly, an is a valuable sort for late summer use." The Prussian Blue, while somewhat late for our time period, is one of the older heirloom peas still available.

H. Cowpeas

Often known as the black-eyed pea or crowder pea today, the cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) is a native of Africa and was being grown by the Egyptians by 2,500 BCE (Weaver, Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, 1997). It was more important in the diet of the ancient Greeks and Romans than was the Pisum pea but is never widely adopted in Europe. It is brought to North America, possibly through the slave trade, early in the 18th century and becomes an important agricultural crop for export as well as an important part of the slave diet in Virginia. John Custis of Williamsburg, in a 1736 letter to Peter Collinson writes: "for those peas you call Italian beans wee call them black eyd Indian peas and I make yearly hundreds of bushes [bushels] of them and ship them to the West Indies." They often go by the name of Indian peas or Virginia peas in 18th century diaries. The Virginia Gazette has over 300 of references to the export of these peas between 1737 and 1780. This is an important alternative crop both for export and for feeding enslaved people in years in which the corn is lean. Landon Carter writes on May 17, 1766 that he is "Ordering an planting Pease everywhere to help out if possible my want of Corn."

They are often used as a medium of exchange. Landon Carter records on Jan. 7, 1770 that the shipment of Molasses, Cyder, fish, cheese and apples he has received will be "paid for in Pease." On Sept. 6, 1770 he writes about a late crop of "pease" that will be used for exchange: "I don't fear but [w]e shall have a reasonable crop of [t]hem to b[u]y necessaries from the new England man." In the Feb. 17, 1774 Virginia Gazette, Alexander Spotswood advertises that he will accept, in return for stud fee, "Corn, Wheat and Pease, at the Market Price, as it may not suit every One to pay the Cash." Landon Carter also experiments with this plant as a green manure. On Oct. 7, 1756 he records an experiment with the Virginia pea: "I am trying to find whether the dressing the ground with Pea vines will produce so well as is talkt of."

The cow pea seems to be one of the most important components of the slave garden. Hugh Grove, writing in Virginia in 1732 observes, "little Plats for potatoes or Indian pease and Cimnells which they do on Sundays or night for they work from sunrising to setting." Fithian records in his diary in April, 1774 that the slaves are, 'digging up their small Lots of ground allow'd by their Master for Potatoes. Peas, &c." The cowpea also becomes an important staple for the troops during the Revolutionary War. The Aug. 23, 1776 Virginia Gazette includes a copy of a letter from Long Island written by Willaim Falconer to his brother: "We have been encamped on this island for this month past, and have lived upon nothing else but salt pork and pease."

The cowpea, while found in slave gardens, seems to be exclusively a field crop for the whites.



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