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Pea is a frost-hardy, cool-season vegetable that can be grown throughout most of the United States, wherever a cool season of sufficient duration exists.
When to Plant
Peas thrive in cool, moist weather and produce best in cool, moderate climates. Early plantings normally produce larger yields than later plantings. Peas may be planted whenever the soil temperature is at least 45°F, and the soil is dry enough to till without its sticking to garden tools.
Spacing & Depth
Plant peas 1 to 1-1/2 inches deep and one inch apart in single or double rows. Allow 18 to 24 inches between single or pairs of rows. Allow 8 to 10 inches between double rows in pairs.
The germinating seeds and small seedlings are easily injured by direct contact with fertilizer or improper cultivation. Cultivate and hoe shallowly during the early stages of growth. The taller varieties (Green Arrow and Bolero) are most productive and more easily picked when trained to poles or to a fence for support. Peas can be mulched to cool the soil, reduce moisture loss and keep down soil rots.
Harvesting Garden Peas
When the pea pods are swollen (appear round) they are ready to be picked. Pick a few pods every day or two near harvest time to determine when the peas are at the proper stage for eating. Peas are of the best quality when they are fully expanded but immature, before they become hard and starchy. Peas should be picked immediately before cooking because their quality, especially sweetness (like that of sweet corn), deteriorates rapidly. The pods on the lower portion of the plant mature earliest. The last harvest (usually the third) is made about one week after the first. Pulling the entire plant for the last harvest makes picking easier. Pea pods can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for two weeks. Unlike fresh green peas, pea pods deteriorate only slightly in quality when stored.
Common Problems
The first signs of fusarium wilt and root-rot disease are the yellowing and wilting of the lower leaves and stunting of the plants. Infection of older plants usually results in the plants producing only a few poorly filled pods. These diseases are not as prevalent on well-drained soils. Double-dug raised beds amended with abundant organic matter can greatly improve soil aeration and drainage. Fusarium wilt can be avoided by growing wilt-resistant varieties.
Questions & Answers
Q. Should I inoculate my peas with nitrogen-fixing bacteria before planting?
A. When peas are planted on new land, you may increase the yield by inoculating peas with a commercial formulation of nitrogen-fixing bacteria. In an established garden, however, inoculation is less necessary. If you are in doubt, inoculation is a relatively inexpensive process that is easy to do and ensures better plant-nutrient status.
Selection & Storage
Green garden peas are legumes just like dried peas, except they are eaten at the immature stage. They are a cool weather, early spring crop. Harvest edible-pod peas when they are flat. Use both hands. Holding the plant stem in one hand use the other hand to pull off the pod. Using one hand, you can easily pull up the entire plant. The smaller pods are sweeter and more tender. Use them for eating raw and cook the larger ones. The shelled peas should be plump but not large. Check one until you become familiar with the appearance. The plumpest peas should be gathered before the pod starts to wrinkle on the stem. Old peas taste starchy and mealy. Fresh peas keep for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. The sugar in them quickly begins to turn to starch even while under refrigeration. As much as 40 percent of the sugar is converted in a few hours. Store unwashed peas in perforated plastic bags for a few days. The sooner they are eaten the better. Nutritional
Value & Health Benefits
Green garden peas are a valuable source of protein, iron and insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps to reduce serum cholesterol thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Sugar snap peas and the like, contain much less protein, but they are an excellent source of iron and vitamin C that work to keep your immune system functioning properly.
Nutrition Facts (1/2 cup cooked garden peas)
Calories 67
Dietary Fiber 2.4 grams
Protein 4.3 grams
Carbohydrates 12.5 grams
Vitamin A 478 IU
Vitamin C 11.4 mg
Folic acid 50.7 micrograms
Iron 1.2 mg
Potassium 217 mg
Magnesium 31 mg
Preparation & Serving
Wash garden peas just before shelling. To shell, pinch off the ends and pull the string down on the inside of the pod and pop the peas out. Wash edible pod peas and trim both ends. Remove the string from both sides of the pod. Cook briefly or serve raw. Steam, sauté or stir-fry quickly to retain the bright green color and vitamin C content. Vitamin C is easily destroyed by over cooking.
Home Preservation
Peas freeze beautifully if they are fresh. Fresh frozen peas do not need to be cooked upon thawing. Just add to soups, stews or heat briefly before serving.
To Prepare Garden Peas for Freezing
Since freezing does not improve the quality of any vegetable, it is important to start with fresh green pods. Avoid old tough pods as they will only get tougher during freezing.
1. In a blanching pot or large pot with tight fitting lid, bring about 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil.
2. Meanwhile, wash, trim and string, pea pods.
3. Blanch no more than one pound of peas at a time. Drop peas into boiling water and immediately cover with a tight fitting lid.
4. Start timing the blanching immediately and blanch shelled peas for two minutes and pods for five minutes.
5. Prepare an ice water bath in a large 5 to 6 quart container or use the sink.
6. Remove the peas from the blanching water with a slotted spoon or blanching basket.
7. Emerge the peas in the ice water bath for 5 min. or until completely cool. If ice is unavailable, use several changes of cold tap water to cool the vegetables.
8. Remove from water and drain.
9. Label and date, quart size, zip-closure freezer bags.
10. Pack peas into prepared freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible by folding the top portion of the bag over. Gently push air out and seal. Freeze for up to one year at 32°F or below.
Note: Blanching water and ice water bath may be used over and over again. Return blanching water to a boil after each batch of vegetables is blanched and replenish water if necessary.
The flavor of fresh garden peas is complimented by spearmint, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme. They hold up well in stir-fry preparations. Boost the nutritional value of meals by adding them to pasta, soups, stews and rice dishes or raw in a fresh garden salad.
Sugar Snap Peas with Toasted Sesame Seeds
•1 tablespoon peanut oil
•3 baby portabella mushrooms, sliced (1/2 cup)
•2 cups fresh sugar snap peas, fresh snow peas orthawed frozen snow peas cut in half
•1 teaspoon soy sauce
•1 to 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed Wash and string peas, slice mushrooms measure soy and sesame seeds and set aside. Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and stir-fry until lightly browned. Add peas and stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce. Cover and cook 1 minute longer. Sprinkle with sesame seed and serve. Makes 4 servings.
French Peas
•3 tablespoons olive oil
•1/4 cup finely chopped romaine lettuce
•1-1/2 pounds shelled fresh peas or frozen tiny peas, thawed
•1/4 cup minced shallots or white part of green onion
•1 large whole sprig parsley
•2 teaspoons sugar
•1 teaspoon salt
•1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Heat oil in a 3 quart saucepan. Place lettuce on top of oil. Add peas, shallots, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer covered, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes, or until peas are just tender. Remove parsley sprig before serving. Makes 6 servings.