Among the vegetables in Thomas Jefferson's garden was the English pea, considered to be his favorite. He grew fifteen types of the English pea, and his frequent jottings on the vegetable in his Garden Book suggest that he paid particular attention to it, happily noting when "peas come to table." By staggering the planting of peas, Jefferson was able to eat them fresh from the garden from the middle of May to the middle of July.
A Neighborhood Contest
Aside from personal preference, Jefferson might have taken special note of the English pea because of an annual neighborhood contest to see which farmer could bring to table the first peas of spring. The winner would host the other contestants in a dinner that included the peas.
Though Jefferson's mountaintop garden, with its southern exposure to warmth and light, should have provided an advantage for the contest, it seems that the contest was almost always won by a neighbor named George Divers.
As Jefferson's grandson recalled: "A wealthy neighbor [Divers], without children, and fond of horticulture, generally triumphed. Mr. Jefferson, on one occasion had them first, and when his family reminded him that it was his right to invite the company, he replied, 'No, say nothing about it, it will be more agreeable to our friend to think that he never fails.'"