Often under appreciated, peas hold a special place in the heart of many home gardeners. Crisp, sweet and bursting with flavor, peas are truly one of the first treats from the garden. As with most homegrown veg, peas taste best when harvested and consumed fresh. They truly taste quite different when grown at home rather than when purchased from the grocery store. Additionally, you can grow many different and unique varieties at home, which is a gift that the garden offers.
Shelling peas: as the name suggests, these are the peas that we crack open to remove the tiny tasty green peas
Snow peas: grown to eat whole, with a smooth flat appearance and delicious tiny immature peas growing inside
Snap peas: crunchy robust pea pods eaten whole, these pea pods are fat and juicy with larger peas
Frost tolerant, peas thrive when planted early in the spring. They take a bit of time to germinate and must be planted along a trellis where they will climb vigorously (yes, there is an exception if you grow dwarf compact varieties but these will give you a lower yield). Sow according to the seed packet, I usually find it easiest to make a trench with the side of my hand and space my peas about two inches (5cm) apart.
Garden Design Note:
Pease will take longer to grow than other spring crops; be sure your garden design has a succession crop that fits with your growing season. For climates where you have a good amount of spring and a longer growing season (think zones 6 and up) you can succession plant peas by sowing cucumber seeds or pole beans, gotta make use of that trellis! For cooler climates, follow your peas with quicker growing crops like bush beans.
To grow great peas, you'll want to make sure that you have good and well-drained soil. This prevents the peas from rotting prior to germinating. Amend your spring soil with worm castings prior to planting. You'll want to ensure that the soil that isn't overly nitrogen rich as this can affect the yield of your plants (growing more lush foliage than fruit).
Be sure not to overwater your peas, especially when they flower as this can inhibit proper pollination.
Like most legumes, peas taste great when they're harvested a little bit on the immature side. For edible shell pods, like snap and snow peas, this will give you a less fibrous pod that tastes sweet and succulent. For shelling peas, harvest early and often when the peas first plump up so that they are tender and not woody or bitter. Harvesting peas regularly will help increase your yield, so be diligent and proactive in the garden.
Peas really don't need much cooking and definitely should not be overcooked. I like them added to a pasta with some lemon and mint. These flavors compliment the sweetness of the peas and heighten your dish. There are lots of great pea pesto recipes out there as well.
Shelling peas are a great option for those with lots of growing space. Shelled peas can be easily frozen by blanching them in boiling water for two minutes and then transferring them immediately to a bowl of ice water. Once thoroughly dried, freeze your peas on a cooking sheet (be sure they aren't stacked) and once frozen transfer them into a reusable freezer bag.
Here's hoping that you choose to add peas to your garden, you'll be rewarded with sweet and tender legumes that please the whole family!