The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Shelling peas vs. broccoli

Peas in the podLet's look at a contest between the six beds of shelling peas I planted in early March and the six beds of broccoli I transplanted in early April.  This week, I've harvested about a quarter of the shelling peas, and about two thirds of the broccoli, freezing all of the peas and most of the broccoli.  Elapsed harvest and freezing time?  Half an hour for the peas, an hour and a half for the broccoli.

So far the two crops seem to be about even, right?  Now let's look at how much food we've gotten out of those beds --- one cup for the peas, two gallons for the broccoli.  When you look at the food produced per hour harvest time, that's like the difference between being paid $2.50 per hour and $50 per hour --- I know which one I'd choose.

Granted, peas do have a lot going for them in other ways.  They provide protein for our bodies, and also fix nitrogen to feed the soil.  They freeze well (but so does the broccoli) and are finished in time for me to plant a summer crop (though broccoli wins here, coming out a precious week or two earlier.)  We find them tasty and easy to cook with, too, but no more so than broccoli.

This is the fourth year we've grown shelling peas, and each year I was certain the problem was the pea variety.  Having run through four different varieties now, I'm ready to accept that maybe shelling peas aren't the best crop for our farm.  Our snow and sugar snap peas seem to produce about four times as much plant matter per bed, but we can't really grow more of them since we only like them fresh.  Maybe we'll skip the shelling peas next year and double up on broccoli instead?

In fact, we could have tripled our broccoli planting since I still have five empty beds that are waiting to be filled with the other half of our sweet potato slips, slowly budding in the sun room.  Why maintain empty beds all spring when they could be feeding us broccoli?

I'm not suggesting we actually get $50 worth of food per hour with the broccoli.  I didn't count in the planting, transplanting, weeding, and watering time, and I actually have no clue how much frozen broccoli costs in the store.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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It sounds lazy -- perhaps because it is lazy -- but I'm skipping peas for the very reason you mention! They are very time-intensive compared to other vegetables.
Comment by Emily on the Southern Prairie Sun Jun 6 23:39:00 2010
I think laziness makes a lot of sense in the garden. Why spend hours on a plant if you can spend minutes on a different one?
Comment by anna Mon Jun 7 08:02:50 2010

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