Heritage vegetable review
Magnum Bonum   Magnum Bonum pea

Age: introduced around 1860
My supplier: Heritage Seed Library
Pros: sublime flavour, big plants with huge yields, attractive
Cons: none - a truly exceptional variety

I've had some great stuff from the Heritage Seed Library, but this one is a corker even by their usual standards.

This is among the tallest peas I've grown, quite readily reaching 7ft and beyond if given something suitable to climb up. It's vigorous too, and you get a lot of pods even from just a few plants. It's similar in appearance to other 19th century tall peas like Alderman and Ne Plus Ultra, but when it comes to height, elegance and stature, Magnum Bonum just has the edge.

 

 
 
 
   

Magnum Bonum produces large flowers which you might call pure brilliant white ... no trace of creaminess in the colour. One of my plants produced two flowers per node but the others didn't.

The pods are large and green with eight or nine big fat peas in each. A trait which it shares with other large peas of the Victorian era is a tendency for the pods to puff out while the peas are still young. This can be quite misleading, because it's hard to tell the difference between a mature pod and an immature one. It's very easy to pick a big fat pod which looks ready and to find that the peas inside are the size of pimples. The safest solution is to leave the pods until they just start to go leathery, at which point the peas are usually at their peak. They can start to go a little starchy if left for too long though, so there is a "just right" time to pick them. But for the most part they taste fabulous even at full size.

Photo: Tall enough that you can barely reach the tops   Magnum Bonum pea flower

I've tasted a lot of heritage peas and the 1890s classic Alderman is my flavour benchmark. Magnum Bonum is the only other pea I've found so far about which I can say "tastes as good as Alderman".

It really is a superb flavoured pea of very high class. It's very sweet, possibly a tiny bit less sweet than Alderman, but with a distinctive richness and refinement in its flavour. The peas are pretty huge in size and taste far too good to cook, so I ate all mine raw.

The Victorians were fond of giving their vegetables these terribly exalted Latin names which give them such a lot to live up to. Magnum Bonum (great and good) probably lives up to its moniker better than Ne Plus Ultra (nothing better).

   
  Magnum Bonum pea
     
   

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Text and images © Rebsie Fairholm. All rights reserved.