For anyone with true English blood in their veins, the topics of ‘marrow’ and ‘marrowfat’ over the previous two days should inevitably have caused the mind to wander to thoughts of marrowfat peas – the source of that essential accompaniment to both hot chips and pies - mushy peas!
Today I celebrate the marrowfat pea and its mush.
Essentially, the marrowfat pea is one of several types of garden pea which has been allowed to mature and dry on the plant until the peas are large and the pods are wrinkled. The peas require soaking overnight after which they may be used in soup, or cooked until mushy and served, as mentioned, as a side-dish.
Reading around this topic made me realise how many varieties of garden pea have been developed, and how many of these appear to have been lost to the great ideals of commercial food production. In the early nineteenth century in An Encyclopedia of Gardening (London, 1824) the author, John Claudius Loudon, had this to say about the number of varieties of pea then commonly grown in British gardens:
The pea is a hardy annual, … it was not very common, however, in [Queen] Elizabeth’s time, when, as Fuller informs us, peas were brought from Holland, and were “fit dainties for ladies, they came so far, and cost so dear.” … The use of the pea is familiar in cookery. In one variety, called the sugar-pea … the inner film of the pods is wanting; and such pods, when young, are frequently boiled with the seeds or peas within them, and eaten in the manner of kidney beans. This variety is comparatively new, having been introduced in about the middle of the 17th century. … The varieties of the pea are numerous: the principal are –
Early Charlton; an excellent early sort nearly equal to the genuine frame.
Early golden Charlton.
Early Nichol’s golden Charlton.
Reading Hotspur; long pods
Dwarf marrowfat: large, long pods.
Tall marrowfat; most large, long pods.
Green marrowfat, Patagonian.
Knight’s wrinkled, or marrow, a white-blossomed, tall, luxuriant grower; the fruit of excellent flavour, cream-colored and shriveled when ripe and dried.
Spanish moratto; largish.
Prussian blue; great bearer.
White rouncival; large, fine pods.
Green rouncival; ditto.
Grey rouncival; ditto.
Tall sugar; large, crooked pods.
Crown, or rose; of tall, strong growth; producing its blossom and fruit in a bunchy tuft at top.
Leadman’s dwarf: a great bearer, but of small pods; good for a latter crop, or as required for succession.
Spanish dwarf; of low growth, small pod.
Early dwarf frame; for forcing.
Nanterre, or earliest French pea.
So, pea-growers of the world, how many of these do you know or grow?
The recipe for the day should by rights be for mushy peas, but a recipe is hardly needed: all you need to do is soak the peas overnight, boil them till mushy, add just enough salt, and serve with a drizzle of malt vinegar, alongside your chips [fries, if you must] or pie. In other words, this is a rather lumpy form of pease pudding - for which I have, in fact, previously given a recipe [here.]
Here is a posh, Frenchified version of mushy peas or pease pudding:
PURÉE OF DRIED PEAS.
Take two quarts of peas; soak them twelve hours in warm water; put them into a saucepan with one pound of bacon, two carrots, two onions, a few cloves, a bunch of parsley, chives, thyme, and a bay-leaf. When the peas are tender, pass them through a sieve, wetting them with a little of the liquor in which they were boiled; then put the puree into a saucepan, adding a little more of the same liquor; and boil it up.
All purées, when served with meat, are entremets. When purées are served alone, they should be accompanied by fried or toasted bread.
French Domestic Cookery (1846) by Louis-Eustache Audot.