Why PEA SHOOTS grown in the field are a win for profitability + sustainability

A crop equally celebrated by us as producers, by consumers and by the soil are the delicious Pea Shoots. A great cover crop that gives financial return on the first harvest. They are a win-win for all involved.

Peas fix nitrogen, so we plant them at the end of our crop rotation with very little bed preparation.

We start by pre-watering the bed, we have found we have less mold issues this way.

We then surface cultivate with the Tilther available from Active Vista in Australia or Johnny’s Seeds in the USA.

And follow this by raking the surface flat with a Wolfgarten 35cm soil rake, our favourite.

Then we pre-press the garden bed with plywood just enough to make the soil surface level not compact.

Seeds: We use a variety called Fiji feathers, which is a tendril type. We pre-soak the pea seeds for 8-24 hours.

1 kg of dry seed will plant 3/4 of a square meter. This is the ideal density. 1 kg of dry seed will grow on average 1.1 -1.8 kg of pea shoots which we sell for $54 a kilogram.

Spread the seeds evenly over the flat surface, ensuring they are not stacked on top of each other at any point.

Replace the plywood on top and squash the surface soil to give even seed to soil contact.

Put lots of heavy weight on top of the plywood to force germinate the peas evenly. We are re-using here heavy cement fence posts. Unstack when the shoots a 5 mm tall, no later.

Cover immediately with 70% shade net to stop the birds eating the crop. Birds will not touch the pea shoots once they are half-grown.

Days to maturity are 12 in summer and 23 in winter.

Very popular as a garnish for restaurant, and we also mix pea shoots into our salad mix.

Planting at such high-density produces a lot of root material in the ground in very few days. If left to regrow they will fix nitrogen. The regrowth is not marketable for us.

Once flowering, you can dig up the roots and look for pink nodules which give a clear sign they are fixing nitrogen.

We hand harvest with a sharp serrated knife and grade as we are harvesting. This is quicker for processing in the wash and pack.

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