Well, the time has finally come to say goodbye to our sugar snap peas for the summer. So I figured I would tell you a little (or a lot) about sugar snap peas that I have learned on my garden journey.
Peas are an ancient food to say the least … like they’re found in excavations of pyramids kind of ancient. But those were dry shelled peas that had to be cooked. It wasn’t until the Renaissance that fresh peas (something more similar to what we have now) started showing up. Though, sugar snap peas still weren’t even around then. The edible pod snow pea was eventually breed with this fresh pea, or English pea, and thus the sugar snap pea was born. Sugar snap peas didn’t come to the market regularly until sometime in the 1970s … making them a very recent addition to the food scene, but an incredibly popular and tasty one at that.
We grew Super Sugar Snap Peas from Burpee which can be found here. Peas are a legume and a cool weather crop. We should have started ours earlier, but with the Snowpocalypse that happened here in Atlanta, we didn’t get seeds planted until the first week of April. Seriously, we just stuck them in the ground at the packet recommended planting depth (which is roughly 3 times deeper than the size of the seed as a general rule). Easy peasy right? Pun so painfully and nerdily intended! I couldn’t resist, sorry! Had we planted them sooner, I actually feel confident that we might have gotten an even bigger crop. We did however get 345 peas out of 19 plants. Which was only 3 sq ft of the SFG (Square Foot Gardening) garden. Let me say that again … 345 peas in 3 sq ft!!!!! Best use of 3 sq ft. Ever. I started by planting 23 peas (8 per square or 2 rows of 4 running on either side of your trellis), but 4 of them didn’t make it … some never germinated, others got eaten, one even had a sledge hammer dropped on it by someone (<cough cough … husband … cough cough> miraculously, it survived by the way!). But still, I’m happy with what we got.
Peas like to be trellised, and they climb vigorously. I think some days you really could sit and watch the tendrils move. It was amazing to see. We installed our trellis in the first week of May and the peas started grabbing on and growing 6 inches a week. It was staggering! Peas like water … LOTS of water. They don’t want to be swimming, but they do like damp soil. Technically, most vegetables and fruit only need 1 inch of water each week. As the weather gets hot, you should give an additional 1/2 inch of water per 10 degrees above an average temp of 65 degrees F. What does that mean … well it means when you average your day time and night time temp, if it is 85 degrees (20 degrees above the 65 degree average), then you need to give and extra 1 inch of water a week (or 2 inches total). As my peas got a late start, I probably started them at 2 inches of water a week and then added more as the weather got warm.
Other than this, I gave them a lovely organic fertilizer probably only 2 times the entire growing season. Which might have to do with how my pea plants got 6 ft tall. It does take a little help every few days to make sure that the tendrils (which are edible by the way if harvested when small and tender, tastes just like the peas!) actually grabbed on to the trellis. But it’s not hard, just gently guide the little outreached fingers to grab the net, some times very gently wrapping it around. I had to use twine once or twice to tie them on until they grabbed on. They figure it out, and grab each other along the way.
Harvesting them is simple. It is best to pick in the morning when the stress from the days heat hasn’t sapped any nutrition or moisture from the peas (this is true with all produce by the way). When the pod plumps slightly, not too big or it become starchy, you just pluck it off the vine and either it eat it promptly, or chill those babies as cold as possible and a fast as possible. This is because peas lose something crazy like 50% of their sugar content in the first 6 hours off the vine unless you can chill or freeze them to slow this process. If the peas you’ve gotten from the store in the past tasted blah, its probably because they were not chilled in a timely matter. Refrigeration won’t completely arrest this sugar to starch transition (freezing will) but it will slow it down enough to help you have a tasty dish at lunch or dinner that day. Fresh off the vine sugar snap peas are anything but blah. Think garden candy that someone might trip you to snitch before you have a chance to stick them in the fridge for dinner, like a 3 year old. Just sayin’!
Whew! That was a lot of information. If I can convince you to grow any one vegetable, I think its sugar snap peas. These were straight up incredible. Our plan for next spring (I won’t have trellis space this fall) is to plant 8 sq. ft of sugar snap peas and possibly even 8 sq. ft. of snow peas. I want a freezer stash to meet all my stir fry needs and some to share … if my family will be willing to share. Maybe it’s best if you go get your own sugar snap peas to grow, cause I’m thinking this sharing thing isn’t likely to happen with these.
PS: For those of you that noticed that 3 sq ft x 8 peas per square does not equal 23 plants, good for you. I can math too I promise. The way we braced our raised beds in the corners was by screwing the planks to a 2×4. So I basically ended up one space short on the corner boxes when planting high density crops/square like peas.