Wow! Peas Sure Have a Long History!
Peas have been food for over 10 Millennia. Wild peas that date back to 9,400 B.C. were found in the Spirit Cave in Thailand. Archaeologists, digging at sites in the Middle East, found peas that were dated around 6,500 B.C.
A more inclusive historical examination of the history of peas can be found at Peas – Wikipedia.
Affordable canned vegetables became common in the late 1800’s…thanks to the Campbell Soup Company…and peas were one of the first vegetables to be canned.
During the “Roaring Twenties”, Clarence Birdseye perfected a freezing process for peas and other vegetables, which allowed veggies to retain most of their nutrients…nutrients that were greatly reduced in the canning process.
Peas Permeate Almost All Cultures and Cuisines!
Boiled, steamed, roasted, sautéed, as a side dish, as a juice or smoothie…or as an ingredient in stir fries, stews, soups, salads, and casseroles…peas find their way around the world in a myriad of ways.
Who hasn’t eaten the well-known combination of peas and carrots? They go together perfectly…like they were made for each other!
Forrest Gump said it best, “Jenny and me was like peas and carrots!”
Believe it or not…pea milk is now being sold in North America, probably at a store near you! This is a non-dairy, lactose-free alternative to cow’s milk. It’s a bit more expensive but, a welcome product for those of us who are lactose-intolerant.
Nothing Like a Few Healthy Peas!
Even considering their high amount of starch, fresh or frozen peas offer an abundance of fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals to help keep your body in good shape.
Canned peas, however, significantly reduce the availability of these nutrients…due to the heating process used to destroy pathogenic bacteria prior to canning.
What Kind of Peas to Plant?
A few varieties I suggest are:
- Super Sugar Snap; Produces thick, full-sized pods with super-sweet peas. 64 days to maturity. Average height = 5 to 6 feet.
- Easy Peasy; High yielding with about 10 peas per pod and 2 pods per node. 60-65 days to maturity. Average height = 30 inches.
- Snowbird; High yielding pods in groups of 2 or 3. 58 days to maturity. Average height = 16 inches. NOTE: This is a “snow pea”…found in many Asian dishes…so, the pods are edible. Pick the pods when the peas are beginning to form.
Putting Peas in My Garden
So, how to grow peas in a garden?
Along with the pea varieties mentioned above, the growing techniques described here also answer the questions; how to grow English peas and how to grow snow peas?
I use a “soil inoculant” containing Rhizobium leguminosarum, nitrogen-fixing bacteria…for peas and beans. The pea plants give food (carbon…produced through photosynthesis) to the bacteria. The bacteria reciprocate by converting atmospheric nitrogen into a form that the plants can use. It’s a symbiotic relationship made in heaven…mutually beneficial for both of them.
Plant the seeds directly into the garden in a sunny location with at least 6 hours of daily sunshine…as soon after the last frost as possible. Or, for a fall crop, plant peas in late summer…10 to 12 weeks before the first frost. Peas like cool weather which optimizes their flavor…their favorite growing temperature is from 50 to 65 °F (10 to 18 °C).
- Dig a furrow about an inch deep.
- Place seeds about 2 inches apart in double rows that are 6 inches apart. Space each set of double rows at least 2 feet apart. I prefer keeping the sets of double rows at least 3 feet apart to give me more room for weeding, mulching, and harvesting.
- Sprinkle a thin layer of soil inoculant over the seeds.
- Cover them with an inch of Jim’s 50/50 soil mixture.
Jim’s 50/50 soil mixture: I use a 5-gallon bucket with a 50/50 mixture of dirt and potting soil and a couple of tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer when putting seeds or seedling plants in the garden.
- Tamp down the soil to make good seed contact.
- Water well. Keep the soil moist…not soggy. We don’t want excessive water causing plant diseases. An inch of water a week is enough.
- In a week or two the seedlings will start popping up. When they are a couple of inches high, it’s time to thin out the weaker ones so there is at least 4 inches between plants.
TIP #1: Peas like some type of support…especially the Super Sugar Snap variety which can grow up to 6 foot high. Take a look at my article on chicken wire trellises for ideas on propping up your peas. Even a short trellis for Easy Peasy and Snowbird peas…using wood stakes and twine…is a good plan to keep the pea pods off the ground. Shoring them up will also make them more productive and less inclined to rot.
Pruning and mulching
If the peas have a lot of flowers but are taking a long time to produce pea pods, pinch off the flowers at the ends of long vines and the pods will start growing more quickly.
Since peas have shallow roots, mulching is absolutely crucial to keep the soil moist and cool.
Bringin’ in the Peas
For snow peas like the Snowbird, pick the pods before the peas start to enlarge because the entire pod will be cooked and eaten “as is.”
For other pea varieties, once the pod is bright green and rounded, they are ready to be picked and shelled. If you wait until the pods have ridges…made by enlarged pea seeds…and the pods become a dull green…you have waited too long.
TIP #2: Pinch off the pods with one hand while holding the vine with the other to avoid damaging the plant. Since peas have a shallow root system, the plants are easily damaged.
TIP #3: Pick pods frequently…at least every other day. Also pick off damaged or old pods that you won’t use. This will encourage new pod growth and give you a much higher yield.
Shelling peas is easy but time consuming. Break the pod at the end away from the stem and spread the pod open. Then, run a thumb down the inside of the pod to strip off the pea seeds.
Pea Mem’ries Light A Corner of my Mind…
I can remember many a day in my childhood when my grandmother tricked me into shelling peas on her back porch by wooing me with a big bowl of ice cream or a big hunk of homemade apple pie as a reward. When she couldn’t persuade any of us grandkids to shell her peas, she would invite a few neighbor ladies over for some cold lemonade and conversation…and, lo and behold…she would have a huge bowl of peas in the pods sitting on the table next to the pitcher of lemonade. Boy, she was a con artist!
Peas will stay fresh in the fridge for no more than 3 or 4 days. So, when you have more peas than you can eat within several days, shell them, blanch them in boiling water for a minute or two, chill them in ice water, drain, place them in freezer bags, and stick them in the freezer.
When it comes time to defrost your frozen peas, let them thaw naturally overnight in the fridge and cook them the next day.
Pests and Diseases
Watch out for aphids, the major pea pests, and spray them off with a garden hose. If there are too many, then it’s time to use an insecticidal soap spray containing rotenone or pyrethrum.
Aphids will cause Mosaic Virus unless the seeds you planted have been developed with a resistance.
If you see flea beetles in the pea plant area, put a floating row cover over your plants to keep the beetles at bay.
In warmer, humid weather, you may start to see evidence of Powdery Mildew disease. It looks just like the name says…it’s a white powdery mold that attacks the plant leaves.
There are several methods available to treat Powdery Mildew.
Mix a gallon of water with either:
- One tablespoon of baking soda and one-half teaspoon of a mild liquid soap.
- Three tablespoons of sulfur dust and one-half teaspoon of a mild liquid soap.
Then, put the mixture into a sprayer and coat all the plant leaves. It is best to make several applications over a week or so to alleviate Powdery Mildew. If you don’t do anything, the disease will destroy your plants!
Don’t forget to use good crop rotation practices each year to discourage soil-borne diseases from infecting the peas.
Peas in the Valley…
There will be peas in the valley for me…some day
There will be peas in the valley for me…oh Lord I pray
There’ll be no sadness…no sorrow
No trouble…trouble I see
There will be peas in the valley for me…for me
Even though I thoroughly enjoy peas with my meal now…growing up, I was more than happy to keep peas off my plate…even hiding them under the plate or sticking them in my pockets until I could pitch them outside. I bet you have some pea aversion in your past, too. Drop me a line and recount your tale by commenting below or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.