Grow ‘Yellowbunch’ for carrots you can roast, juice or make into soups. These slender roots are very uniform and grow 8 to 9 inches long. The plants have good resistance to Alternaria blight, a leaf disease.
All parts of a pea plant are edible, including blossoms, shoots, tendrils and pods. Young shoots taste the best, while older ones tend to be tough and stringy. Pea shoots and blooms make a beautiful addition to spring salads and stir-fries. Many chefs use young pea plants to make pea stock or even ice cream. If you’re growing peas for shoots, harvest micro-greens when plants are 2-4 inches tall (roughly 2 weeks) and snap greens when plants are 4-8 inches tall (roughly 2-4 weeks). This pink-flowered variety is a snow pea known as ‘Dwarf Grey Sugar.’ Vines aren’t dwarf, though, growing 4 to 5 feet tall.
Garden or shelling peas are super easy to grow and bring a lot of nutrition to the dinner table. Peas contain nearly every vitamin and mineral you need and are a low glycemic index veggie, helping to stabilize blood glucose. Packed with fiber, they also make you feel full longer. The trickiest part of growing garden peas is knowing when to harvest. Pods should be full and firm to the touch, which is a clue the peas are fully formed. If the pod is soft and the sides press in easily, the peas haven’t yet filled out. This variety is ‘Feisty,’ which is a tendril or afila type of pea. The vines produce more tendrils than leaves. With fewer leaves, pods are easy to spot and pick. The tendrils are edible and make a beautiful garnish or salad green.
Snow peas offer variety in flower and pod color. Purple snow peas bring a stronger flavor (it has a bitter nuance) and cheery color to the salad bowl. For strongest color, pick the youngest pods and use them raw or lightly sautéed. Longer cooking fades the hue to muddy tones. Purple snow peas make beautiful coleslaw, pasta salad or sandwich toppers. This variety is ‘Royal’ and is popular among chefs for its color and flavor.
Choose from three types of peas to plant (left to right): snow peas, garden peas and snap peas. Sometimes called Chinese pea pods, snow peas (left) are the one used in stir-fries and can be eaten raw or cooked. Garden peas (middle) are also known as sweet peas, English peas or shelling peas. These peas have to be removed from the pod before cooking. When you buy a bag of frozen peas, this is what you’re getting. Snap peas (right, aka sugar snap peas) are a cross between snow peas and garden peas. With snap peas, you eat the whole plump pod with the peas inside—it’s a crunchy, sweet bite.
Spring peas are one of nature’s delicacies—a true tonic after winter. St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional pea planting day in warmer regions, but you really want to wait until soil temperatures are in the 45-degree range. A clue for the right pea planting time in your region is dandelions, daffodils and forsythia. When these spring favorites start to flower, it’s time to plant peas. Plant too early, and pea seeds will likely rot in cold soil before they germinate. Plant too late, and vines will only have a short bearing window. For garden planting, soil should be moist but crumbly (think chocolate cake). If it’s too wet, seeds may rot before sprouting.