Freshly harvested, shelled, and cooked peas are a late spring treat. While the garden or English pea has been widely grown for years, gardeners may also want to plant the edible podded peas. Edible podded peas include the snow and snap peas.
Snow peas (sugar peas) are harvested when the pods are long and thin, just as the seeds begin to develop. Young pods are tender, stringless, and may be stir-fried in Chinese dishes, steamed, or cooked like snap beans. If the seeds are allowed to develop fully, they may be shelled and used like garden peas.
Snap peas are also edible podded peas. Snap peas are best picked when the seeds are nearly full size. The pod walls are thick, fleshy, and crunchy. Snap peas may be eaten raw in salads, snapped and cooked like snap beans, or shelled for garden peas. They also freeze very well.
Garden, snow, and snap peas are cool season crops. They should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring (late March or early April in central Iowa). Sow seed 1 to 1.5 inches deep and 2 inches apart. Peas can be planted in single or double rows. The double rows should be about 6 inches apart. Double rows allow bush varieties to cling and hold up one another. Place wire netting or a trellis between double rows of tall varieties to provide support. When planted in single rows, the dwarf or bush-type varieties should be sown in rows 2 feet apart and the tall growing varieties 3 feet apart.
Suggested garden pea varieties include Little Marvel (early maturing), Frosty, Lincoln, Green Arrow, Knight, Freezonian, and Wando (heat tolerant). Dwarf Gray Sugar, Oregon Giant, and Super Sugar Pod are excellent snow pea varieties, while Sugar Daddy, Sugar Snap (climbing type), and Sugar Ann (bush-type) are good snap peas.
This article originally appeared in the March 21, 1997 issue, p. 23.