Peas are a staple in our home. They provide a fresh, crunchy snack, through the spring months while the kids play or we garden. Peas are very prolific and easy to harvest for last minute stir fry dinners or picnics at the park. Of course, let's not forget the delights of a fresh pea salad with a dash of salt and pepper. However you choose to eat your peas, you will find them much more delicious when you grow your own or can purchase them from a local farmer.
When growing your own peas, you really cannot go wrong! All you need is a seed catalog, cuppa tea, and a bit of time to dig through and find your favorites. Ahhh....wait, there are how many types of peas? And varieties of all of them!? Okay, breathe, take a sip of that tea......It's going to be alright. We will walk you through this and you will come through just fine
Okay, so first, you have three main types of peas for fresh eating. These are SHELLING PEAS, SNAP PEAS, and SNOW PEAS. There are also soup peas, but for now we are going to focus on the fresh eating peas.
These are eaten whole, preferably dipped in hummus, YUM! Both the crunchy pod and the peas inside have a sweet taste. Snap peas will yield more food per square foot than the other type of pea. They come in several varieties and growth habits. We prefer a succession planting of Cascadia and Sugar Ann, both varieties staying around the 3 ft mark, requiring little trellising.
This pea produces tender, flat pods that are eaten whole in salads raw or in delicious stir-fry. They freeze whole for use in your dinners all winter long! We only grow one variety, though there are many out there. Schweizer Riesen Snow pea is our choice. This snow pea produces lovely blooms and delicous peas on 6ft vines. You will need a trellis for this variety!
These peas are delicious in a fresh pea salad and can be a delight to kids and adults. Sometimes called English peas because they were developed in Great Britain in the 18th century. The sweet peas are shelled from tough, inedible pods. We prefer to grow the Maestro variety here as it has an exceptional sweet flavor and freezers well.
Growing your Peas
Tradition in the Pacific Northwest is to plant your peas by Presidents day! Well, that's today. Don't panic though, you are not late! We tend to plant peas every 3 weeks thru May, here on the farm. We also tend not to plant our peas until March first. There are no pea police beyond mother natures hard long frosts, or her summer heats. Both are hard on your peas.
Plant your pea seed in compost enhanced soil, about 1/2inch apart and 1/2 inch deep in a row or at the base of a tee-pee style trellis system. We make our lives simple by using t-posts and cheap wool yarn (it composts!) in 20 ft rows. Your peas should take about 10 days to peak their heads above the ground. Now you watch them grow. If you are succession planting your peas, mark your calendar and in 2-3 weeks, plant another round of peas.
Harvesting your peas
About 50-70 days after planting your pea seed, your peas will be ready to harvest. Exactly how long depends on the variety you chose. The package will have the estimated length until harvest.
All of your fresh eating peas should be harvest while young and still tender. Even "stringless" peas will develop a string that is not palatable on an older pea. Shelling peas tend to get starchy and less sweet when over ripe. Peas are prolific, and you will be harvesting them every 3 days t really stay on top of the harvest.
Once the harvest is done, your pea vines can compost them or feed them to livestock. Our ducks love to munch on the vines! Pea vines are nitrogen rich and will help replenish your soil as the decompose.
If you only want to grow one type of pea, let it be Snap Peas. They produce the most per square foot, many varieties require little trellising, and they are the most fun to eat in our opinion!