The Fabaceae family is the third largest family of flowering plants in the world and includes most of those wonderful plants we call legumes – so special and important because they capture precious nitrogen from the air with their biochemical alchemy. So, as well as being delicious, peas are a great fertility boosting plant in the garden. Half of the sugars are said to be gone within one hour of picking, so it can truly be said you have never tasted a snow pea, unless you have picked it yourself.
The snow pea is among the oldest know cultivated vegetables with evidence showing it’s cultivation in the region now know as the Thai-Burma border 12,000 years ago! The sugar snap was invented by an American named Calvin Lamborn in the 1960’s by crossing the snow pea with the regular garden pea.
Eden Seeds recommend these varieties –
- Oregon – flat edible bush type, heavy bearing and disease resistant.
- Roi De Carouby – very pretty purple flowers and real climber
- Spanish Sky Scraper – sweet fine flavoured pea, very productive with white flowers.
NSW agriculture department recommends these:
- Mammoth Melting – can be used for edible leaf harvesting and flowers but requires trellising.
- Sugar Bon (dwarf) – is a sugar snap pea and the most productive in commercial use.
- Sugar Ann (dwarf) – another sugar snap and very sweet but can suffer from powdery mildew where Sugar Bon will not.
Health and Nutrition
Snow and sugar snap peas have much less protein than their other leguminous relatives. They help reduce heart disease risk. They are an excellent source of iron and vitamin C (although the vitamin C content is reduced greatly by cooking) and very good for your immune system. They also have good fibre content.
Remember all legumes have beneficial actions on your soil (they help put nitrogen back into the soil) so don’t limit your pea and bean plantings to your VEG bed but sow them all around the garden for their beautiful flowers and the good soil work they do. You don’t have to mind your peas and ques.
These plants thrive in a cool growing environment, temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius greatly lower yields. A maximum of 25 and minimum of 5 degrees Celsius is best. Frost will usually make the flowers sterile so make sure you sow to avoid this problem.
Spacing – sugar snaps can be planted a little closer together than snow peas although don’t make them closer than 4cm. Snow peas should be at least 7 or 8cm apart as they will get runners going off in a few directions.
Nutrition – the most important nutrient is phosphorus, the nitrogen and potassium usually required by other plants is less important with these plants although sugar snap will need more nitrogen than snow peas. As usual follow our advice of liberal applications of home made or VEG worm juice and make sure you conduct some type of crop rotation after a couple of years.
Sowing time – peas can be sown in Melbourne from March through until late August.
Harvesting should be done every two or three days with snow peas because you don’t want the peas to form, sugar snaps are allowed to grow till they form a nice size set of peas inside the pod. How often you harvest depends on the variety. They will reach maturity from 60-90 days depending on the cultivar and the quality of growing conditions.
Pests and diseases
Powdery Mildew is quite common but here is an extensive list of possible problems. Common wilt, near wilt, downy mildew, enation mosaic virus, western pea streak virus. Insect problems are best beaten by having lots of spiders and other predatory insects. Possible insect problems are onion thrips, budworms, red-legged earth mite and cutworms. For a quick reference guide for visual identification go to http://www.padil.gov.au/
Storage in a refridgerator usually lasts for 1-2 weeks but bear in mind the sugars in them convert to starch very quickly – in less than an hour almost half the sugars ore gone. They can be frozen for longer periods if first you blanch in hot water for a minute then drop into iced water for 3 minutes then freeze.
Uses and recipes
Don’t forget the wonderful aesthetic results you can get with a beautiful patch of pea flowers. You can get a lovely burst of purple and white in the garden with these beautiful plants. Snow peas have become very popular in stir fry and are a must in a salad for their crunch and their sweetness. See recipes.