Food prices have been on the rise in Kenya lately, and it’s been tough to stretch our budgets. Especially for those of us with families to feed, buying even a small portion of food can be a challenge. That’s why I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands and start growing some of our own food. One of the sources of protein I’ve chosen is peas. They’re not only tasty and easy to eat, but they’re also relatively simple to grow.
What are peas?
Peas, or minji, are classified as legumes, along with beans and lentils. They are a nutritious source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and are known to be very expensive when bought in the market due to their limited availability. However, this scarcity also presents an opportunity for farmers to take advantage of the high demand and potentially lucrative market for peas.
For small-scale farmers who may only have access to less than an acre of land, peas are an ideal crop to cultivate. This is especially true for farmers in regions like Kiambu, Nyandarua, and Meru counties, where peas are a major source of income and food. But larger scale farmers can also do well with peas, and may have the resources to invest in value-adding processes such as freezing or canning, or drying for use as food or animal feed.
In addition to garden peas, there are other varieties of peas grown in Kenya, such as snow and sugar snap peas. Sugar snap peas are especially popular in European markets due to their edible pods, while garden peas are the most common in Kenyan households. Peas can be consumed fresh or cooked, and are often paired with other staple foods such as chapati or rice.
Overall, the high demand and potential profitability of peas make them a promising crop for farmers in Kenya and beyond.
Planting and harvesting are important stages in the cultivation of peas. Here are some bullet points that further explain these stages:
- Peas do best in cool and moist growing conditions.
- Seeds should be sown directly on well-prepared moist soils with a pH of 6 to 7.5 that is rich in organic matter.
- Seeds should be planted at a depth of 2.5 cm, with double rows of 10 x 50 to 60 cm.
- In dry, light soils, the seeds should be planted about four centimeters deep.
- Peas need warm soil to grow and good spacing for adequate sunlight.
- The root nodules of peas contain bacteria that fix nitrogen in the soil.
- Peas require temperatures of 10 to 30 degrees Celsius with a minimal of 400 to 500 mm rainfall in the growing season.
- Adding compost or organic manure adds soil fertility and ensures maximum production.
- Crop care entails regular regulation during dry spells.
- Mulching can be done to preserve moisture, prevent soil erosion, keep off pests and diseases, and add soil fertility on decomposition.
- Weed control is also essential to suppress weeds to keep off pests causing diseases and reduce competition for soil nutrients, water, space, and sunlight.
- Crop rotation is recommended with grains, carrots, cabbages, and potatoes.
- Staking is done as peas require several poles erected to support the vines and keep them off the ground.
- Green peas are ready for harvesting two to three months after planting.
- Green peas are known to be ready for harvesting with the appearance of the pods being full with the pods matured.
- Common pests and diseases that attack green peas include cutworms, African bollworm, caterpillars, aphids, pea blue butterfly, thrips, leaf miners, spider mites, root nematode, weevils, and beetles which are controlled by crop rotation and applying appropriate pesticides and insecticides.
- Diseases that affect green peas include damping-off, blight, powdery mildew, downy mildew, fusarium wilt which are controlled by using disease-free healthy seeds, destroying crop residues, use of resistant varieties, and spraying appropriate fungicides.
Peas: Benefits, Marketing, Challenges, Research and Development, and Food Industry
Peas are a versatile crop that provide various benefits, pose challenges, and offer potential for innovation in the food industry. Here are some subheadings that could be added to the article:
Benefits of Eating Peas
Peas are a good source of protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. They are low in fat and calories, making them a healthy addition to any diet. Additionally, peas have been linked to several health benefits, including improved digestion, reduced risk of heart disease, and lower blood sugar levels.
Marketing and Selling Peas
Peas can be sold fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. Farmers who wish to sell fresh peas should ensure they are properly cleaned and sorted before packaging. Frozen and canned peas can be sold in supermarkets, while dried peas can be sold in bulk or packaged for retail. Direct selling options, such as farmers’ markets or online platforms, can also be explored.
Challenges in Growing Peas
Peas are susceptible to various pests and diseases, which can affect yield and quality. Climate change and unpredictable weather patterns can also pose a challenge to pea cultivation. Additionally, access to quality seeds, fertilizers, and other inputs can be a challenge for small-scale farmers.
Research and Development in Pea Cultivation
Researchers are exploring ways to improve pea cultivation, including developing new varieties that are resistant to pests and diseases and can withstand climate change. There is also ongoing research on how to improve pea yields and quality while reducing the environmental impact of cultivation practices.
Peas in the Food Industry
Peas are used in various food products, including soups, stews, and salads. Pea protein is also becoming a popular alternative to animal-based protein sources in vegan and vegetarian products. There is potential for further innovation and product development using peas and pea-based ingredients.