Varieties

There are big peas and petit peas; big vines and dwarf ones (Little Marvel, Progress No. 9); spring peas and hardy "winter" ones; hot weather specialists such as Wando (good for the South); Pisum sativum arvense, the gray field pea popular for food in the Middle East and India but used more for animal feed or a green manure crop here; and bush peas and pole peas.

Bush/Pole Peas: Pole peas take longer to mature, and you have to rig up something 3 to 6 feet tall for them to climb (see "Pole Beans"), but they bear more pods and go longer. Lincoln comes on early; Alderman next for a nice succession. Bush pea height depends on your soil and climate. Mine get only between 1 and 2 feet high. Lane Morgan, in her pea-paradise maritime climate, says she has to add at least a foot (and some kind of support) to all the catalog estimates about pea vine height, "bush" or not. snap Peas: These combine traits of the snow pea (see next paragraph) and the regular green pea. Pick them when the peas are mature and can be either snapped like beans and used in the pod or shelled like old-time green peas. The Park variety can be eaten at any stage of development —like a snow pea, like a snap pea, or shelled. Lane Morgan says, "In my opinion, snow peas aren't worth the trouble because they are persnickety to grow and you don't get much. But sugar snaps are another matter. You get that wonderful, unbeatable garden pea flavor, with several times the bulk and without the trouble of shelling. What a great deal. You don't even have to cook 'em; they are so good raw. You do have to support the vines. I use chicken wire that has gotten too ragged to protect the chickens: Run some poles through it. Stick it up along the rows in the spring. Roll it up again in the fall. Every year I grow more sugar snaps and fewer English peas [English peas are regular peas, not sugar snaps or edible-pod peas]." snow Peas: If the seed directions tell you to pick the flat pod before the seeds inside have begun to form bumps, that's a "snow pea" or "edible-pod" pea (Pisum sativum macrocarpon). "Sugar" in the name also suggests the ability to be picked at the edible-pod stage. But "snow" guarantees it. These are the old-time Asian stir-fry specialists. They don't freeze or can as well as standard greens, but they're wonderful raw or briefly sauteed. There are both bush and climbing varieties, but even the "bush" types seem to long to climb. Plant as much as 6 (or even 8) weeks before your last spring frost date. In the Deep South, plant snow peas around October for a winter crop. Snow peas have only half the calories of English peas.

Continue reading here: Planting and Growing

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