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Quick growing, cool weather loving peas are an important part of any garden. Just give them something to climb on and then swoop in for the harvest. Choose from three main types of peas: shelling, snow, and snap.
Peas are lightly frost tolerant, cool weather annuals that prefer full sun, although they will tolerate partial shade. Plant peas in well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizer which will promote lush foliage at the expense of flowers and fruits.
Direct seed peas outdoors in early spring and late summer for a fall crop. Seeds germinate best when soil is 40-85˚F. Sow seeds ½-2" deep and 2” apart. Seeds will sprout in 6-14 days. Most peas are more productive if given a fence or trellis to climb.
To increase harvest window, plant successions of peas from early spring to mid-May.
Harvest snow/snap peas when pods are still tender and peas immature. Harvest shelling peas when pods are fully fleshed out. If in doubt, taste pods in different stages of maturity to determine best flavor.
Like most legumes, peas are a self-pollinating annual with perfect flowers. Cross-pollination is unlikely, but it's prudent to leave at least 20 feet between varieties. To encourage optimal pod development, water very little and don't feed the seed plants or pick from them for eating. At the end of the season, pick the pods when they have turned crisp and brown. With bush-types, the whole bush can be uprooted and hung upside down to dry. Leave the seeds in the pod until very dry, then crush pods to release seed and winnow away the chaff to clean.
*Shelling/English Peas: Also called garden, shelling or English peas; these are left on the plant until the pod fills out completely. Then they are removed from the fibrous, inedible pod and lightly cooked.
*Snap Peas: Succulent edible pods reach maximum sweetness before the pod begins to turn dull and each pea becomes distinct. If left on the vine too long the pods become starchy. For the first harvest always taste multiple pods in different stages of growth to zero in on which ones are the sweetest.
*Snow Peas: Well known in Chinese and other Asian cuisine dishes and are also delicious raw in salads or on a crudité plate. The edible pods are only tender before the peas have fully developed. Harvest when pods are still mostly flat.