Peas drying inside where it’s a bit cooler. They will be great to eat in winter. (Mary Lowther photo)

Peas drying inside where it’s a bit cooler. They will be great to eat in winter. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Moving into beans as heat wave fried peas

I sowed both pole and bush beans because bush beans produce earlier and

By Mary Lowther

A week of record heat burned the leaves on my peas, curtailing production so much that I’ve pulled them out already and have sown beans in their stead to reuse the trellis. You have to love twofers, but it’s small comfort when facing climate change. Many pea pods grew quite short so I’m drying these for pea soup in the winter and saving peas in the longer pods to sow next year in the hope they will be more heat resistant. I pulled off the pods and laid them out to dry inside, away from the sun because they would deteriorate too quickly. Once the pods dry I’ll break out the peas and let them dry again before storing them in a cool, dark place.

Peas develop nitrogen in nodules on their roots but the plants take up this nitrogen and store it in their seeds, the peas. Nutrients taken up for plant development are removed from the soil, so we must replenish this loss for the next crop because peas don’t add nitrogen to the soil once they set seeds. I left the pea roots to compost in place and amended the soil with organic fertilizer at the rate of two litres per square foot.

I sowed both pole and bush beans because bush beans produce earlier and, with the later bearing pole beans, we end up with a longer eating season. Bush beans usually also need some kind of support so they don’t fall over. I sowed both types of beans about eight inches apart on both sides of the trellis and plan to support the bush beans with twine wound around stakes on the outside of the beans. I’ll water them every day till they sprout, then use the same routine as the rest of the garden, following the present stage three restrictions required by the CVRD.

I’ll tag the best plants for seed saving, not for eating, and when I get tired of eating and freezing, I’ll dry the rest for winter meals. About mid-August I plan on undersowing with a low-growing winter cover crop like crimson clover that can get a head start before winter sets in.

Legumes like beans and peas contain abundant protein when they’re well grown. I plan to grow a protein-rich crop in every season I can to augment a balanced diet. Well grown potatoes and corn also contain good levels of protein, especially when corn has been nixtamalized; that is, cooked with lime, dried and ground into masa flour, thus unlocking many nutrients, including niacin and protein, but figuring out how to do this is another story best told by the Aztecs who discovered this process.

Historians have spent millenia recording great battles, detailing the exploits of kings and generals good and bad. Very few have taken the time to notice the agriculturists whose hard work put the food on their tables, even though Napoleon himself told them that “An army marches on its belly.” When I mentioned that to David he replied that past historians, like today’s mass media, needed crisis and hysteria to sell their product. The only time agriculture was mentioned was during a famine.

Do you suppose that, once climate change has made food production impossible, the guilty will comfort themselves by blaming the farmer? As Jean Baptiste Karr (himself an agriculturist) once said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Please contact with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.