The Spring Garden: Growing Peas

The Spring Garden: Growing Peas
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snap peasIf you think of mushy and green when you think of peas, then you haven't tasted homegrown peas. They are crispy and sweet picked right off the vine from the garden. There are many varieties for the home gardener, and all are easy to grow. The main types of peas are: garden peas, snap peas and snow peas/sugar peas.
Garden peas: the traditional peas that are shelled or removed from the pod to use raw or cooked. These are also known as English peas.
Snap peas: these have edible pods that can be eaten along with the peas, fresh or cooked.
Snow or sugar peas: These are the flat pods that are used in stir-fry or salads.
All varieties of peas prefer cooler weather to germinate and grow, so they are one of the first vegetables that can be grown in the spring. The soil should be between 45 and 50 degrees F. for planting and dry enough to work with, rather than wet and heavy. In areas where winters are cold this will be about a month or so before the last frost. Peas need a fertile, well-drained soil. It's a good idea to pick through the soil to remove rocks, sticks etc., and rake it smooth before planting. The seeds should be sown 2-3 inches apart and one inch deep. Once the seeds are planted, try not to disturb the soil because they are fairly sensitive to damage.  Don't allow the plants to dry out, but don't keep the soil soggy either.
Peas can be grown in pots, raised beds or a traditional garden row. They need full sun, but cool temperatures, which are why they are a perfect early, spring vegetable. Peas will also need something to climb on such as a trellis, poles, chicken wire, fencing, netting or even branches. You don't need to use anything fancy, as long as it's sturdy.
Once the peas are ready to harvest, pick them daily until the plant stops producing. Many gardeners plant seeds each week for several weeks, so they have plantings that are staggered and ready at different times.
Shelled peas are easy to cook. Simply cook them uncovered in boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes, then cover the pan and cook for another 5 minutes or so until they are tender. Snap peas and snow peas can be eaten fresh or cooked in a small amount of water. All varieties of peas can be added to stir-fries because they cook quickly, and are tasty when still crunchy.
Peas are very versatile, and can be added raw or cooked to pasta, greens, stir fries, and casseroles. Sugar peas or snap peas are wonderful served raw with dips for lunch or dinner.  Below are two simple recipes to try this spring with homegrown or purchased fresh peas.
Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry
1/2 pound sugar snap peas
1 tablespoons sesame oil (spicy or regular)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash the peas and pat dry with paper towel. If the peas are bigger you may need to pull the "string" from the pods since it can be rather tough. If you pick them early when they are young you may not need to do this. Heat the sesame oil on medium heat then add the ginger and garlic. Saute for 30-60 seconds. Be careful not to scorch. Add the peas and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Minted Peas
4 cups shelled, cooked peas
4 tbsp. butter
3 tsp. chopped parsley
3 tsp. chopped mint
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the peas while still hot with the butter and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 6-8.

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About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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