(Southern Pea (Cowpea) Cultural Notes are listed separately.)
How to Grow: Peas are a fast-maturing cool-weather crop. In the Mid-Atlantic region spring-planted peas produce a better quality crop than fall-planted peas. Spring planting is also better because the vines are more resistant to freezing than the pods, which are more likely to freeze as they mature in the fall. Sow peas as soon as the soil can be worked. Soil should be well drained with pH in the range of 6.0 to 6.8. Peas require a soil rich in phosphorus and potassium for good production. Too much nitrogen causes lush vine growth at the expense of pod production. Sow seed 1" deep, 1/2-1" apart in double rows 4" apart. Thin to 2" apart. Single or double rows should be planted 2' apart for dwarf varieties and 2-1/2 to 3' apart for tall varieties. Support tall varieties on a trellis or fence, or use well-branched brush stuck into the ground. Peas normally do not need to be watered unless the soil is consistently dry at the time of pod production.
Harvest: Pick as soon as pods are full. The sugar in peas converts to starch soon after harvest, so to keep the sweet flavor, use or process within two hours.
Diseases: Peas are susceptible to a variety of diseases, most commonly in soils that have grown peas for many years. If disease is a problem, use resistant varieties and follow a 5-year rotation.
Seed Savers: Isolate varieties by a minimum of 50' for home use. For pure seed isolate by 150'.
Packet: 1 oz (28g) unless stated (approximately 90-220 seeds, depending on variety) sows 12-20'.
This new class of peas was developed by Dr. Calvin Lamborn at Gallatin Valley Seed Co. Snap peas originated by breeding the sweet pea Mammoth Melting Sugar with a chance mutant of a popular freezing pea called Dark Skinned Perfection. For home gardeners, snap peas represent one of the more significant breeding advances in fifty years (though edible-podded peas can be found in old seed catalogs). Snap peas have many desirable qualities: excellent disease resistance, thick pods that snap like snap beans and remain sweet and tender when mature. Snap peas more than double the amount of food produced by a crop of peas.
How to Grow: Same as other green peas.
Germination Note: Because snap pea seeds have a high sugar content, the seed may rot in cold soil before germinating. We recommend pre-sprouting the seeds for early-season plantings in cold soil.
Harvest: Harvest when pods are filled out and peas inside are full size. Strings can be removed while picking by holding the vine in one hand and pulling the pod upward and off the vine with the other hand.
Preparation: Shelling isn't necessary since pods and peas are eaten together like a snap bean. The small strings along the pod sutures are not noticeable when eaten raw, but they should be stripped off before cooking. Flavor is excellent, but is easily destroyed by overcooking or canning. To cook snap peas, steam or stir-fry about 3 minutes or until pods appear dark green or water-soaked. Snap peas freeze well, but should be thawed before heating, or eaten as is. Thawed snap peas are heated to serving temperature, but are not cooked. The major problem with snap peas is that they are so good that most of them are eaten in the garden, leaving few to bring to the kitchen table!
Packet: 1 oz (28g) otherwise stated (about 100 seeds) sows 12-20'.
Snow Peas are harvested before the pods fill out. They are eaten along with the pods either raw or cooked. Often cooked in Asian dishes. For best quality, pods should be harvested at least twice a week.
Shelling (English) Peas
Wrinkle-seeded peas are sweeter and earlier than smooth-seeded peas and maintain picking quality longer. Use these peas for shelling and eating fresh.