Ark of Taste
Pisum sativum var. medullare
Marrowfat peas, along with common garden peas and sugar peas, make up the three major categories of pea plants. The nineteenth century American standard of Marrowfat pea was the large, white Marrowfat of English origins; a heavy cropper with five-foot vines bearing long, round pods housing six to seven peas each. The Dwarf Marrowfat pea evolved from this tall variety, sporting broad pods and vines no taller than four feet.
English settlers first introduced pea crops to North America in the seventeenth century, finding the cool climate of New England especially conducive to large, nourishing harvests. In the nineteenth century, Americans began developing their own pea varieties. A list issued by New England seeds men in the 1830s included a plethora of additional varieties: Matchless or True Tall Marrowfat, Vermont Marrowfat Green, Knights Tall Marrow, Dwarf Marrowfat, Groom’s New Early Dwarf Marrow and Knight’s Dwarf Marrow.
Marrowfat pea varieties ripen later than other garden peas, and although they can be harvested after the flower fades and small peas form in the pod, they are best when allowed to mature and dry naturally in the field. Marrowfat varieties are sweet and delicate — similar to a chickpea. Their soft texture when boiled provides good levels of fiber and protein with little fat. Marrowfat peas can be prepared in an English mushy style (with a hint of lemon, salt and mint), served as a side dish accompanying roasted meat and fish, or use in any casseroles or soups that calls for a dried, starchy legume. Due to their robust size, they are also delicious roasted and seasoned for a savory snack. Additionally, dried peas can be ground into flour or fresh peas enjoyed as sprouts.
Image by R. & J. Farquhar Company; Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons.