Lately my conversation has been laced with four-letter profanities like “s-n-o-w” and “c-o-l-d,” but Mother Nature is pretty sure she can compress an entire winter season into a month and a half. Who am I to argue? So, it’s time to chill — and believe in whirled peas.
Spring and cool-season crops fit together like peas in a pod. (OK, I’m done with pea puns.) It seems like a long time until mid-April — and no guarantee gardens will be in any shape to work and plant peas at that time in northern Iowa, but there’s still time to look at a few newer cultivars described by the National Garden Bureau.
Garden, snap and snow peas are the three most popular edible peas. Often known as an “English” pea, the garden pea is for shelling. Pods are harvested when pods are plump, then the peas are popped out and taste tender, juicy and sweet.
Stir-fry fans love snow or sugar peas. Young pods are tender, stringless, sweet and flavorful. If you don’t harvest all the peas when young, all is not lost. Let them fill out, and then shell them like garden peas.
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Snap peas should grow almost to maturity. When the pod is broken, you’ll hear a snap. Eat them raw, cooked, or yes, shelled.
“Green Beauty” is a purple-flowered snow pea described as having tender pods with excellent sweet flavor. Plants are vigorous and can reach 6 to 8 feet tall. Pods can grow from 4 to 6 inches long. “Green Beauty” can be grown in containers, as well.
“Masterpiece” is described as a “people-pleaser — paisley-like tendrils and plump juicy peas growing on plants of nearly fairy-tale beauty.” Foliage is sweet and edible after a month. Pods will be “packed with peas infused with bright, sweet, clean flavor.” Plants benefit from being caged or trellised, but don’t expect it to climb like a traditional pea pod, NBG says. Harvest when young, or let grow and harvest small pods for shelling.
Direct seeding is recommended for “Patio Pride,” a 2017 All America Selection. This compact snow pea is sweet when picked early. Grow it in the ground, a container or even as a small, low hedge. The plant can reach 12 inches high and spread 10 to 12 inches. Pods are 2 to 3 inches long.