Many years ago the cutting of pea sticks to provide support for tall growing peas was common place. The world wars, where labour was short and modern farming techniques has pretty much put paid to the growing of large pea varieties except for the home gardener. Of the tall eating pea varieties, although you can find others at specialist nursery’s only Alderman remains common place. It can grow to between 5 and 6ft, towering above all other pea varieties. Alderman dates back to Victorian times. It is long cropping although because of its height it can take a little while to get going and you must provide support.
Sow from March to July. You will have most successful germination if you sow in root trainers, guttering or modules and plant out, after hardening off for a week when plants are 2-3 inches high. if you sow direct outdoors without protection be prepared as with all peas to suffer heavy losses to mice, slugs and birds. Plants will need support of netting or trellis up to 6ft.
In the kitchen
The taste is good but must be picked young to be sweet. Older peas can be dried to be used in stews and soups or “mushy” peas. Growing a heritage variety can be a good talking point.
Plant health and Yield:
Being a taller pea, alderman flowers and harvests as a main crop pea and you will probably start to crop from June/July. Yields are higher per plant than shorter varieties and spread out over a longer period. You will need to pick small and often to keep them producing. Like all peas they will suffer from pea month so net with insect mesh unless you want to greeted by little caterpillars in your pods. They are susceptible to downy mildew. Yields will go down as the plants age and you will probably need at least three sowings, a month apart to keep you cropping in to the autumn.
I’ve grown these for a few years now.