More Peas Please by Angelina Jordan Item Number: article9
Peas don’t usually make the top ten on most people’s list of comfort foods ... or, do they?
Review your own list of favorite foods that cheer you up and you’ll probably find peas somewhere in the mix. Thanks to the talents of many moms, even kids whose first experience with peas involved cleverly trying to roll them under a napkin have come to love them.
Generous in versatility, peas are inexpensive to produce and provide a valuable source of protein in our diets. Whether you know them as sweet peas, garden peas or English peas, this category of vegetables has been a mainstay in the cultures of many societies for centuries.
Although peas belong to the Leguminasae family, they make up a specific subfamily called Papilionoideae. Different varieties are further classified into subgroups, such as the garden pea, which is classified as Pisum sativum and the field pea, which is classified as Pisum sativum variety arvense.
Though the exact origin of the pea is sometimes debated, it is generally thought that it originated in Asian areas. This is accepted mostly because it thrives well in cooler climates.
Regardless of the exact location of its origin, the pea had made its way to Europe by the 13th century and was introduced to the U.S. by early settlers. They found the American climate well-suited to producing a healthy harvest of peas. In fact, many areas offered climates that would produce two crops per growing season. This only contributed to its increased popularity.
When it comes to planting peas, the earlier the better works best. In order to for pea seeds to germinate, they must be planted in soil with a temperature of less than 10°C. When the soil in your area is warm enough to be worked, then it’s time to plant. In most zones, this translates to 6 – 8 weeks before the last spring frost.
You can still plant peas later in the season but they will not produce as well. They are cold resilient and thrive best in cooler weather. If you miss the early planting season you can still produce a quality crop in the fall. Remember though, by planting peas early you can usually reap the literal benefits of two crops per season.
Soil with a Ph level ranging from 6.0 – 7.0 is optimal for growing peas. Loam soils containing a specific mix of clay, silt and sand produce quality results in the production of various types of peas.
Seed Depth: plant 1 - 1˝ inches deep.
Plant Spacing: space 1 inch apart in single or double rows.
Row Spacing: allow 18 – 24 inches between single or double rows.
Small to mid-sized varieties of peas are self-supporting while larger varieties require additional support in order to reach their potential.
Germinating seeds and young plants are delicate, which makes them susceptible to injury. Place stakes and/or cages into the ground carefully as soon as possible after planting to reduce the risk of damage.
Like all vegetables, peas need sunlight in order to grow. Plant them in an area that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day. Peas will grow even better when they are exposed to eight hours of sunlight.
If you have to make a choice between morning sunlight and afternoon sunlight, always select the spot that receives the longest amount of sunlight in the morning hours. Even in moderate climates, overexposure to hotter afternoon sunlight can wilt even hearty pea vines and bushes quickly.
Peas need to be watered at a regular frequency and in a fairly consistent amount each time. It is important though that the soil in which they are planted has adequate drainage.
If rainfall in your area is less than average during the season, use mulch to retain the required moisture. Always make certain not to over-water so that the peas don’t end up standing in water.
Aphids – tiny, grayish-brown
insects that suck the liquid nutrients from pea plants.
Thrips – insect larvae that feeds on pea plants and pods for about 17 days prior to pupation.
Bud Drop – caused by plant’s sensitivity to ethylene gases such as car emissions; regular watering rather than erratic watering can help prevent spreading.
Chimaera – occurs in vine varieties from exposure to severely cold weather. Leave one or two side shoots that can be redirected if this happens.
Anthracnose – caused by seed-borne fungus that leads to spotting and blemishes characterized by dark-colored lesions on stems; remove younger growth affected to prevent spreading to root.
Botrytis Blight (Gray Mold) – fungus disease caused by long periods of cool, rainy weather; removing lower leaves will allow more air to circulate and create a drying effect.
Powdery Mildew – white powdery mildew present on underside of leaves causing leaves of plant to turn brown and be shed; spreading can be prevented by trimming lower leaves to allow for increased air circulation.
Ramularia Leaf Spot – large, undefined shapes in tan spots beginning on lower leaves causing them to drop; wet conditions cause this disease.
Sclerotinea (Cottony Rot) – spores lodge in leaf junctions causing rot that spreads into the main plant stem and kills the plant; can be prevented from spreading past the early stage by cutting infected leaves.
Streak – caused by virus; symptoms are brownish-purple streaks along entire plant stem; pods turn same color and remain flat and brittle if present at time of infection; decrease spreading by watering less frequently.
Peas are separated into two unique groups, having either edible pods or pods that must be removed. Snow peas and snap peas have edible pods. Other varieties such as field peas have inedible pods that must be removed prior to consumption.
Garden – English - Early Peas – vine grown, green in color and must be shelled.
Snow Peas – vine grown, green in color and entire pod can be eaten.
Snap Peas – vine grown, green in color entire pod can be eaten.
Cow Peas – bush grown, tan to brownish color and must be shelled.
Field Peas – bush grown, medium brown to nearly red in color and can be shelled or eaten whole.
Black-eyed Peas – bush-grown, white to tan in color with black circle or eye around the hilum; can be shelled or eaten whole if picked young.
Most varieties of peas span an average 55-60 days from planting to maturity. They have reached maturity when the pod reaches appropriate length for the variety and is plump or filled-out, but not ballooning as if it’s about to burst.
Keep a record of the size specifications from your seed package so that you’ll know when your plants are nearing maturity. Watch plants and pods closely as their maturity date nears. Peas that are over-ripened will have a pasty or starchy taste and consistency.
Once the pods have matured they will be plump and ready for picking. In general, you should be able to have several pickings during a 10 -14 day period.
Make certain that you also remove any over-ripened pods. Leaving them on the vine or bush will diminish the plant’s ability to produce more pods.
Since the plant itself is very delicate, use both hands while picking to prevent bruising and/or uprooting. Protect your plants by holding the vine or bush with one hand and picking the pea with the other hand.
Shelling your peas or removing the pods can be a time-consuming process. This is especially true if you’re trying to do everything by yourself or if you have an abundant crop. Time-saving products such as a manual pea sheller or an electric pea sheller can quickly multiply your efforts. You may want to consider a more advanced pea sheller if you have a very large harvest.
Peas are one of nature’s finest multi-vitamins. They contain hearty amounts of Vitamins A, B and C that are essential in our diets. Like other legumes, peas also provide a plentiful supply of protein for our bodies, which makes them a valuable option for people with health concerns such as heart disease that require restricted amounts of meat.
1 bushel of peas in the shell or pod will make an average of 8 quarts of canned peas. This can also vary from anywhere between 5 – 10 quarts, depending upon the maturity of the pods when picked. Regardless of the average number of quarts you have, there are pressure canners in various sizes that will meet your specific needs.
For best results in frozen peas, select peas that are at their premium color stage and are still very firm. After shelling and washing them, blanch peas for 1˝ - 2 minutes only and cool immediately in ice water. Use a food vacuum sealer to package the various sizes you will need and place in freezer.
If you prefer drying peas make certain to select very young and tender peas. After shelling and washing the peas, sprinkle them in thin layers in a dehydrator and dry until hardened. Store dried peas in a closed container in dry, dark and cool storage area.