plump sugar snap peas
March is the time to grow peas here in Northern Virginia. In our family we prefer the sugar snap peas where you eat pea and pod together but shelling peas and snow peas are also started during March’s cool weather. Last year we grew Amish Snap from Seed Savers Exchange which was excellent; this year we will try Renee’s Garden’s Sugar Snap Peas just to compare. We have already tied the nylon netting to the banister that leads to the front door and, in the back, to the deck railing, wherever I could ensure that the peas would receive full sun. Pea plants are light in weight and their small tendrils need to wrap around thin nylon or string. In the beginning, you may have to “train” them to wrap around the nylon or unwrap them if they find a nearby plant but eventually they learn to wrap up and create a pretty green screen. St. Patrick’s Day is my cue to soak the seeds in water overnight, insert in cone shaped coffee filters (could have used paper towels too), and place in zipped plastic bags. I left them on a shelf, I did not put them under grow lights. Within two days, the seeds germinated and after a few days, when it was necessary for the shoots to receive sunlight, I planted them outside about 4 inches apart. Planting them when they have germinated as opposed to planting seeds makes them able to withstand the cold soil temperatures. Last year, in April and May, we picked them almost every day when the peas had expanded enough to make the pods plump – hence – snap when you bit them or bent them. They were so sweet, we ate them raw as the vegetable portion of dinner. Peas are easy to grow, nutritious and delicious, and are a great kid gardening project.
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The peas are here – quick, eat them before summer rolls in. This year, I am growing Seed Savers Exchange’s Amish snap. We prefer the snap peas — my son especially likes to pop the sweet, crunchy pods into his mouth, spit out the remaining stem into the garden, and exclaim, “See Mom, they are biodegradable!” I too prefer to eat the entire pod raw while the rest of my family likes them cooked with chicken and pak choi (cut into ribbons). Also this year, I am experimenting with a nylon trellis system on the rail that leads to the front door. Although there are plenty of strings for the tendrils to hold on to, periodically, I gently directed the three pronged tendrils to the nearest string for them to sense something nearby to which they should attach. Now that they are full grown, the four-foot high plants decorate the walk up to the front door with small white flowers and luminous green pods.
Last year, I made it a point to get the seeds in the ground by mid-March to have as long a harvest as possible. I thought the soil temperature was the required 45 degrees but after I planted the seeds, it snowed. Nothing much came up and I learned that planting seeds in cold soil tend to rot more or don’t germinate as well as planting seedlings, which can survive the cold soil much better than seeds. This year, it snowed so often in March I didn’t plant until the beginning of April. Instead of planting the pea seeds directly in the ground,I first soaked the pea seeds in water overnight. The next morning, I placed several seeds in damp paper coffee filters and then covered in a plastic bag. They germinated within 2 days! I also planted some of the seeds in small containers of soil, and they too germinated quickly. After a few days, I had many small seedlings, which I planted at the base of the trellis system.
pea seeds germinated in paper coffee filter
Now, at the end of May and beginning of June, I can snip off a bowl full of peas for us to eat at dinner. I pick the “middle-aged” ones: not too young and flat; not too old and starchy; but just right, just thick enough to “crunch.” My kids take it for granted that they can eat fresh peas from the garden but I know that getting that kind of goodness is a gift to be savored during the ephemeral spring days.