Cooking Mange-tout | Growing Mange-tout | Site and soil | Varieties | Sowing | Weeding and Watering | Picking | Troubles
In French, the words ‘mange tout' mean ‘eat the lot', a good phrase for the sort of peas that is eaten pod and all. Strange that the French name for ‘eat-all' peas has gained such wide currency, but it is undoubtedly much more elegant. The mange-tout type of peas has been around since at least the sixteenth century when reference was made to pea varieties that do not have hard skins on the inside wall of the pods. That is the difference between mange-tout varieties and the kinds grown for the peas themselves. The very young pods of any variety can be eaten as mange-tout, but the varieties grown as mange-tout are quite separate. The pods are larger, flat and the pea seeds do not fill the pods. There is also the sugar pea, or snap pea, or in America ‘snow pea', that is also an eat-all kind but these varieties have thick-walled fleshy pods, rounded unlike the flat mange-tout types. While sugar peas or snap peas are mange-tout types, mange-tout is generally taken to refer to the flat kind.
Mange-tout peas are a good food source, providing protein, carbohydrate and fibre as well as being an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A. This vegetable can be eaten raw or cooked and it is versatile. It needs little cooking, can be used as a vegetable on its own, and features most in fresh dishes and stir fries.
Site and soil
Like all peas, mange-tout types like an open, sunny position in fertile open soil. The soil is best if not too rich as this causes excessive leafy growth and may affect the fertility of the flowers. Mange-tout varieties are generally taller than the ordinary kinds of peas and would benefit from good shelter.
The most widely grown mange-tout variety is ‘Oregon Sugar Pod', a fairly tall variety. ‘Delicata' is smaller with good disease resistance. ‘Dwarf Sweet Green' is low and quick to crop. There are lots of sugar pea varieties, such as ‘Sugar Bon', a low grower and early cropper, ‘Sugar Snap' is a head-high grower that is a good cropper but needs good support. ‘Delikett' is an exceptionally sweet sugar snap type.
Mangetout varieties can be sown from March to June, like other pea varieties. Simply scatter them along a row and cover. The size of the pea vines and their support should be taken into account in choosing the sowing position.
Weed and watering
Control all weeds near the young pea plants and water if necessary during dry spells - the young plants need to be kept growing steadily.
Begin using mangetout peas as soon as they are big enough, about five or six centimetres even, because the main crop of pods will all come very quickly.
Mange-tout varieties suffer the general run of pea diseases, but these are not usually very troublesome. The young plants can suffer from attacks by pigeons, pea weevils and slugs so keep a watch for damage.