The Pea is a garden delicacy, doing double duty as a delicious veggie while improving your soils by fixing nitrogen (as long as Rhizobia bacteria are present). This cool season annual legume takes the form of a vine and is cultivated mostly for its seed pods. Some varieties, called garden peas, produce pods which are eaten whole when still young and tender, while those referred to as field peas are harvested once seeds are dried and mature. Tender young shoots and five-petaled flowers can also be used in salads, but don’t get confused and eat flowers of the sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus), a different species whose ornamental flowers are actually toxic! Peas are best grown in a cool season with temperatures remaining below 75°F.
Sugar Snap Peas are a garden pea variety with vines reaching 5–6′ in length, requiring support from a trellis. Edible sweet pods develop from white flowers and grow to 3″ long. Often eaten by the handful as a raw and healthy snack, they can also be used in cooking or added to salad.
Seed Depth: 1–2″
Space Between Plants: 1–4″
Space Between Rows: 18–24″
Germination Soil Temperature: 40–80°F. Seeds will take longer to germinate in cooler soils.
Days for Germination: 9–14
Sow Indoors: Not recommended. If you try it, use a compostable pot which can be transplanted directly into the soil.
Sow Outdoors: 4 to 6 weeks before average last frost or as soon as the soil can be worked.
Grows best in cool, damp weather. Will be most productive when they’re able to mature in temperatures consistently below 75°F. In Zones 8 and higher, peas should be started in the late summer or early fall for a winter harvest.
Natural: Full sun. Prefers partial shade in hotter weather.
Artificial: Grows well under fluorescent or LED lamps.
Soil: Prefers loamy or sandy soil. A pH of 6.0 to 7.0 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Although it’s not recommended to grow peas indoors, seeds will germinate in soilless mixes of well-rotted manure, perlite, and other organic matter.
Hydroponics: Will thrive in a hydroponic system using rockwool cubes or other similar stone/sand mediums.
Water: Requires moderate levels of water. Aim to keep the soil evenly moist. Watering is less important in the early stages of development, but make sure to increase irrigation once flowers have appeared.
Pruning: Plants may be thinned as they begin to mature to avoid overcrowding.
Mulching: A layer of straw, grass clippings or compost will assist in keeping weeds down.
Rotation: Rotating peas with root vegetables will help keep the soil healthy and reduce the risk of disease. Following peas with kale can be mutually beneficial for both plants.
Companions: Grows well with carrots, celery, cucumbers, corn, eggplant, chicory, parsley, radishes, turnips, sweet peppers, and spinach. Avoid potatoes and onions.
Harvest: Can be picked by hand once they are firm and plump. Most plants will generate multiple successions of peas, so make sure to keep harvesting after the first round!
Storage: Delicious eaten fresh, garden peas will keep in the refrigerator for a week or more if kept dry.
History: An ancient vegetable, it is said that pea soup was commonly served in Ancient Greece by street vendors. Peas have been found in Egyptian tombs, and they’re mentioned extensively in the first Roman cookbook!
Preserve: Will do well frozen once they have been blanched. Peas are also great pickling candidates. Try throwing in a sprig of dill for an herbal flavoring!
Prepare: Can be eaten raw, pickled, in a stir fry, or roasted. To remove the fibrous string, break off the stem end of the pea and pull down the inside curve of the pod. Add thinned young shoots to a spring salad.
Nutritional: A great way to add protein and fiber to your meal without packing in calories and fat. Peas also contain various vitamins such as K, C, and certain B-complex vitamins. Antioxidants are also present in this veggie, but levels will vary based on whether they are eaten fresh or stored.
Warnings: Some people are allergic to peas, so eat with care or consult with a doctor, especially if you know you have allergies to lentils or other related species.
For a delicious diner side dish, try these Sugar Snap Peas with mushrooms.