from the field to frozen in record time
One of the vegetables grown by The Co-operative Farms for our stores is the humble pea. They take zero preparation and cook in a few minutes from frozen but the production of our peas is far from simple.
At harvest time our farmers work 14 hour shifts to accomplish the journey from “vine to frozen” in just 150 minutes, providing the freshest peas possible. Timing is crucial – they have to be at exactly the right level of sweetness and tenderness before we’ll harvest them.
Location is the first priority for producing the best peas. Only a select few of our farms on the east coast are chosen to grow our peas due to the dry climate and proximity to factories- so we can freeze in the freshness in super-quick time.
To prepare the ground for peas, the soil is usually ploughed before Christmas to give the soil a chance to weather and break down naturally over winter.
The seeds are planted or ‘drilled’ into the ground in the spring. Peas are sown about two inches under the soil surface.
Getting the crop off to a good start is important - as a young plant they can be at risk from pigeons and insects.
As the peas grow the tendrils of the pea crop entwine to create a huge interlinked "mat" that provides stability and support through poor weather.
The hedgerows at the sides of the pea fields are carefully protected to allow birds and plants, like the poppy, to thrive.
By July / August the pods are bursting with peas and ready to be harvested. Our peas go from growing on the vine to frozen all within 150 minutes, locking in the vitamins, colour and freshness.
It’s quite a marathon for our farmers, who give up their summers to get the perfect crop. Harvesting generally lasts about 7 weeks and 14 hour shifts are common at this time of year.
Our team get up at 4am to test the peas for tenderness to see if they’re ready for harvest. Peas have to be harvested at exactly the right time; if we’re too early they won’t be ripe enough but too late and their sweetness and tenderness will be lost.
Special machines harvest the peas, with up to 10 tonnes of peas an hour being transported from the field to the factory, where they will be cleaned, tested, frozen and bagged.
Producing peas for our own stores creates satisfaction at both ends of the process; our farmers get to see their crops in store and our customers can be safe in the knowledge that the peas they eat are grown by us, in the UK, with the utmost care.
You will find our peas in the frozen section of selected stores all year, in 454g and 907g packs.
Frozen peas are packed with vitamins and so easy to cook– the perfect accompaniment to many dishes. Add them to salads, casseroles, pasta dishes, frittatas, rice and more. For a change try them with fresh mint or a dab of butter with lemon zest to add a bit of zing!