Pea pods are just one example of the protective seed covering we call a pod.
Most legumes and many Brassicas produce a long, dehiscent fruit that contains many seeds. [Dehiscent means that the structure opens spontaneously when its contents are mature.] Vanilla beans come in a pod, as well. But what makes a pod unique in the plant world?
Anatomy of a pod
A pod is made up of two identical long halves (bivalve) that contain seeds. These halves are joined and then split along a seam, called the suture. Legume pods are made from a single carpel, while Brassica pods (siliqua and silicula, depending on the pod dimensions) are made from two carpels
A pod’s purpose
A pod protects the developing seeds. Pods can also perform photosynthesis, providing the seeds with food energy. Scientists have recently learned that pod tissue can recognize when a seed is damaged and relocate resources to where they might be better used. It ends up pods are major players in regulating seed development.
Pod pests and diseases
Plants invest a lot of energy into creating pods to protect their precious cargo. While bean seed beetles and other seed-chewing beetles may gnaw their way inside, and the pod spot (Ascochyta fabae), powdery mildew, and other fungal diseases may try to dissolve the pod, pods tend to be a strong defense for the genetic information they contain.
The pods of beans, okra, peas, radish, and mustard are just a few of the edible pods you may have in your garden. And if you allow any of these plants to go through their complete life cycle, the pod will dry and split open, dispersing seeds where they fall, generating more plants for your foodscape!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!