The second International Mushy Pea Day (IMPD) is being celebrated on 9th November 2018 . Originally launched by the Harbour Lights Restaurant in Falmouth, Cornwall, last year IMPD was a big hit throughout the UK and as far away as Hong Kong and New Zealand.
Mushy peas, also known as ‘Yorkshire caviar’, are dried marrow fat peas, mature green peas that are allowed to dry out naturally in the field. In Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and parts of Lincolnshire, mushy peas are often served as a snack on their own. In Nottinghamshire they are traditionally accompanied by mint sauce,and sold at open-air events such as fairs or fêtes. In Nottinghamshire, mushy peas served with chips is called a ‘pea mix’. Mushy peas are also popular in Scotland served with fish and chips or as a wetter version with vinegar in a bowl. The ‘proper’ etiquette for eating peas is to squish them on the back of your fork and chomp away and another fun fact is that peas boiled with onion and spiced with cinnamon is a strong aphrodisiac!
Detective work by the British Edible Pulse Association revealed that the birth of marrowfat peas as we know them dates back to the late 1800s. ‘Marrow’ peas were being referred to from the 1820s. In 1898, an article for the Royal Horticultural Journal on the history of garden peas in England states that “… in the last fifteen years a whole new business had been created in Holland of growing and marketing ‘blue boiling peas’(soaked peas).’”
These blue boiling peas were exported dried to England and sold in major industrial and mining towns. As a cooked winter vegetable they were a good replacement for fresh peas. Stalls selling them with butter and salt found a market with workmen early in the morning.
The peas grown in Holland were assumed to be from English-bred material, large-seeded peas known as ‘meaty horticulture peas’. They were grown predominantly in the Zeeland region, and their Dutch name was ‘Schokker’, the peas being grown. The English-bred marrowfat variety Harrisons Glory became an integral part of the Dutch breeding programme.
The varieties Harrisons Glory, Zelka and Big Ben were used commercially by Batchelors Foods until the late 1960s, when they were replaced with a Japanese variety, Maro.
In the 21st century, as well as being sold in cans, and served as mushy peas to accompany traditional British fish &chips, marrowfat peas are just as likely to be consumed as wasabi peas in trendy bars! Marois available to home gardeners, and is sown in March/April/May to crop from May to December. Plants grow up to 150cm tall. For dried peas, harvest the pods when they’re fully dry and mature and the peas are hard and firm. Marrowfat peas can also be eaten fresh when the pods are young; although the peas are less sweet then most garden varieties,they do have a distinctive savoury taste.