2014-05-01 / From The Garden

Peas, Please!

By Cynthia Gibson


The tepee idea is fabulous for growing peas and makes for easier picking. Climbing nasturtiums and morning glories also thrive on a conical form. The tepee idea is fabulous for growing peas and makes for easier picking. Climbing nasturtiums and morning glories also thrive on a conical form. Peas are an amazing summer treat that are easy to grow and quickly give results in 60 to 70 days.

Peas are not a one-note vegetable, as there are many different choices when growing these sweet green nuggets. The earliest variety you can plant is a climbing English pea. Make sure to have a structure available that is at least three feet tall and go ahead and sow your seeds now. There are also two seasons for planting. Sow peas a second time immediately after the first round has been harvested and the vines start turning yellow.

English peas, or shell peas, are the old-fashioned variety that conjures up the images of women on a farm sitting around a table with bowls for shelling and a good dose of gossip. Since the pod is too tough to eat, it is discarded. I recommend Lincoln, Wando, or Alderman seeds, which are all vigorous growers. Also try Green Arrow, a variety which is huge in size and produced for commercial purposes.


Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. The rule of thumb is to plant one-quarter pound of peas per person. This might sound like a large quantity, but since they are so good you will eat them as quickly as they come in.

Snow peas, also known as “mange-tout” (“eat all”) or snap peas, are another strain where the entire pod is eaten while it is still flat and undeveloped. They are often used in stir-fry dishes, but can just as easily be tossed into a salad or quickly steamed and served immediately.

They do not really need major structural support, as they grow to a height of about two feet. They climb, but not with the ferocity of other types.

Soup peas are yet another variety, and Blue Pod Capucijners make a great choice for hearty winter soups. The pod of this pea is a very deep purple, reminiscent of an eggplant. These are the seeds to dry, save, and savor. You can leave them on the vine where they will dry to their natural beige color.

The typical soup or “dry” peas are field peas, which are a lowgrowing, burgeoning crop in the U.S. and are the “split” peas you find in the supermarket. They come in green and yellow. We all think of pea soup as a thick green mixture with pieces of ham hocks sticking out of the pot, but Canadians much prefer the beautiful soup produced from yellow field peas.

Peas of all varieties are available at our local seed stores. For buying in bulk, try Agway in Portsmouth, which sells large supplies of gardening materials for farmers and the serious home grower.

Since peas are a climbing vegetable plant, they force us to think vertically. They are best grown on a netted fence, tepee, or tomato cage.

You can save a lot of limited garden space by growing many of your other vegetables and fruits vertically, as well. The best candidates are cucumbers, small melons, tomatoes, climbing beans, and small squash. All of these plants have tendrils, those curlicue pieces growing from the vine that allow the plant to attach itself to a net or trellis. Although most vining plants have tendrils, not all do.

Store-bought structures can make growing vertically very simple. All of the big box stores and garden centers are now filling their shelves with trellising, netting, and poles of all sorts and sizes. In addition, you can find different “cages” that are excellent for tomatoes, peas, and cucumbers.

While saving room, a vertical garden also relieves the stress on a tired gardener’s body. Picking vegetables and small melons becomes an effortless exercise. Children also love hiding within a bamboo pole tepee that has been planted with red scarlet runner beans.

Whether large or small, these support systems will make your garden more visually interesting with each passing year.

Since growing peas is so easy, you can savor their simple goodness all summer.

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