How to Use the Entire Pea Plant

These homesteaders discover how to use the entire pea plant, includes helpful tips on using pea pods and pea vines for livestock feed and making pea pod wine and a sure-fire recipe to make the wine.

| July/August 1977

These homesteaders share how to use the entire pea plant at harvest, from livestock feed to making wine.

How to Use the Entire Pea Plant

There are many ways to grow more food on less land and you've probably already heard about or tried succession planting, double cropping, and other intensive gardening tricks. "But growing is only half the story," says Eugene A. Engeldinger, of Strum, Wisconsin. "If you want your garden to really pay off, you've got to use what it produces more than once!"

My family loves peas and we've planted several varieties of the vegetable over the years. Regardless of the kind we raised, however, our homegrown crop always seemed to have the same drawback: After all the work of planting, cultivating, mulching, harvesting, and shelling . . . the few pints of (admittedly tasty) peas we finally set on the table generally struck us as a small return on our investment. Oh sure, we got a little additional satisfaction out of adding the hulled pods to the compost pile . . . but not enough to make us feel that we were coming out even on the deal.

We tried to tip the scales in our favor for a couple of years by planting only peas with edible pods. "Hey! This is the answer," we told ourselves. "Just look how much more we have to set on the table when we can eat pods and all." "This is not the answer," we immediately replied, "because we simply don't like edible pod peas as much as we like the regular kind."

And so we went back to our first love . . . but this time, thanks to our experience with edible pod peas, we had a little trick up our sleeve. "Maybe we don't want to eat pea pods," we thought, "but there's a strong possibility that some of the other inhabitants of the farm will. And if we can get that kind of mileage out of the crop, it'll be worth growing the kind of peas we really like after all."

We had just added rabbits to our homestead inventory of livestock, so we started our experiments with them. Surprise! Not only did the animals relish our "useless" pea pods (and other vegetable "wastes"), but the culls from the garden also added variety to the bunnies' diet, substantially cut our bills for rabbit feed, and became a far more desirable addition to the compost pile once they'd been transformed into rabbit manure than they'd ever been as garden scraps.

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