We were incredibly excited when we first saw this completely new variety of ‘pink’ pea a couple of years ago, and even more delighted when Cope Seeds, who will be selling the pea seeds in the UK, offered to ask the breeder (Czech company Selgen) whether we might come up with a name for them. We’d been calling them Pink Panthers or simply Panthers in the Bean Store, but it turns out that Panther is already taken and the Pink Panther is very keen to protect his trade mark.
We threw the naming idea out to social media, that always goes well with these things, right? Our plan was that the best name, regardless of whether it was approved, should earn a pack of pink peas.
We expected people to be interested because well, pink peas, but had no idea how huge the response would be. As hundreds of suggestions poured in a few themes emerged, with variants on pearl, sunset/sunrise, rose, coral and flamingo coming out on top.
There were names we loved but thought would never get approval (Floyd), we were momentarily worried that Pea McPeaface might gain traction, and quietly stepped away from an increasingly competitive (but good humoured) discussion between the proposers of Pinklepods and Pinkypops. We love a bit of wordplay (see top) and Lady Penelopea definitely appealed (and my Grandfather worked on the production of Thunderbirds), but La Pea en Rose was hands down the best pun.
In the end we’ve settled on Flamingo Peas, it has met with the approval of the breeders and those that look after the variety lists. We have a bit of an animal theme with our peas, and already have badgers and foxes, so it seemed a neat continuation. The peas are not strictly pink either, they’re orange but appear pink – much in the way that flamingos are often quite orange.
EVERYONE’S A WINNER! We haven’t picked a winner, it’d be almost impossible, instead we’re offering everyone who wants one a 500g pack of the Flamingo Peas (first come, first served; we have about 400 packs). They’re free, but we do ask for some feedback in return, if you request a pack we’ll send you a link to a very quick survey, we’d love to know what you think and how you cooked them. Claim your Flamingo Peas here.
WHY ARE THEY ORANGE / PINK? The unusual colour is thanks to a gene called ‘Orc’. Pea geneticists may well be Tolkien fans, but more prosaically Orc simply stands for ‘orange cotyledon’ (cotyledons being the two halves of the pea seed – most obvious in split peas). The orange trait occurs naturally and has long been known (the Germplasm Resource Unit in Norwich, a seed bank that specialises in peas, has a cultivar from 1967) but it isn’t particularly stable and can disappear quickly with open pollination. The advantage of growing them in the UK is that our climate ensures peas are almost completely self-fertile, pollinating themselves before the flower buds are fully open. This should mean that British grown Flamingo Peas will hold their colour in successive years.
The orange comes from beta carotene, present in all peas but in much higher concentrations in the Orc cultivars. Whether this extra pigmentation brings any nutritional benefits isn’t clear, but we plan to find out.
The subtle pink colour of the peas, as shown in the various pictures we’ve shared, is the result of the intensely orange cotyledon showing through the translucent white skin of the pea seed. When cooked you’ll find that the rich yellow / orange colour shows through more..
WHERE ARE THEY FROM? Orc cultivars have been trialled over the years since the trait was first spotted, and pink peas have been formally listed in the UK in the past (listing means the seeds are commercially available). But lower yields and less disease resistance when compared to more usual peas meant they never really caught on.
Cope Seeds first saw the Flamingo Peas early in their development (they work closely with the Czech breeder) and began trialling them with the PGRO in 2018. They performed well, much better than previous pink peas, and Cope felt certain they could find a market for beautiful looking peas with a creamy texture and delicate, sweet, flavour.
Needless to say we agree!
At the moment all the peas we have were grown in the Czech Republic, where the seed was bulked up, but this summer the first UK Flamingo Peas, probably about 10 tonnes, will be harvested. This autumn we’ll make them available as whole peas on our website and through wholesale. We’re hoping to sell some as split peas and if there’s enough will mill some for flour.