Growing Spring Peas…Yes, Peas!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Peas

There’s nothing easier for a new gardener than to grow spring peas. Their variety, quick germination, easy growing habit and short to harvest nature are bound to boost any gardener’s confidence.

Peas are a cool weather crop and are usually the first seeds to be planted indoors in pots or outdoors in the ground. No garden, or garden season, would be complete without this old time favorite. And, after you have grown and eaten your own fresh peas I think you’ll agree.

There are three main varieties of peas:

  • Sweet Peas, sometimes called Shelling Peas because their shell is not edible like other peas. These peas are taken out of the shell before cooking or eating.
  • Snow Peas have flat edible pods with a tiny pea inside. These are common in Asian dishes or stir fry’s.
  • Snap Peas also have an edible pod, but the pea inside is full size. These can be blanched and eaten, or eaten raw.

To have the most success with your pea beds start in the fall with a rich layer of well-rotted compost and manure turned into your planting area. Peas love well-drained soil, but do not like fertilizers much, so use it sparingly, if at all. Peas do however, like phosphorus and potassium, and a good sprinkling of wood ash worked into the soil before planting would be to their liking.

In most areas, peas can be directly sown in the garden 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost. Pt up peas for indoor growing in areas of the country that stay cold into the spring months. Peas are a cool weather crop, so soil temperatures should be between 45 and 70 degrees. The ground should be cool when planting, but not wet. It can be tricky to time the weather conditions. If you have wet soil for long periods consider creating raised beds or plant in pots.

Plant pea seeds 1-inch deep and 2-inches apart. When the shoots emerge you can set your poles or trellises for climbing varieties. Peas do not like a lot of water so water sparingly, but don’t let the roots dry out or no pods will form. Also, pea roots are fragile, so be cautious when pulling weeds and avoid hoeing a pea bed. If peas are a staple in your garden it’s best to rotate with other crops to avoid a buildup of soil-borne diseases.

To keep a pea crop producing long into the season, pick the pods often as this encourages more pods to develop. The best time to pick is in the morning when the dew has dried. It is also the time of day when peas are the crispiest. When picking, it’s best to use two hands, one to hold the vine secure and one to pick the pea. You don’t want to run the risk of breaking the vines off. Fresh peas can be kept in the fridge for about 5 days, but to enjoy your pea harvest well into the warmer months freeze them. If any peas miss being picked you can still use them. Simply dry and shell them. Dried peas are prefect in winter soups and stews.

But, let’s not forget—It’s Spring! And with that comes the start of salad season at our house. Yep, we are die-hard consumers of salads in many shapes and styles. The long hot months cry out for light and cool, yet nutritious meals. If it can be chopped, sliced, diced or shredded and laid on a bed of lettuce greens we are happy women. And, why not? Our area is considered the salad bowl of CA; a state that grows over 250 different crops.

But, this early in the season means only one thing…Pea Salad!

A wonderfully light and crispy salad accented with Pancetta, cheddar and onions, and a hint of fresh dill. What could be more glorious, except for maybe that delightful little POP each time you chomp down on those fresh peas. It makes the perfect side dish or potluck take-along and goes great with grilled meats. Even a baked salmon dinner will scream SPRING when served with this pea salad at its side.

Pea Salad-onion-cheese

PANCETTA, CHEDDAR & PEA SALAD 

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ pound of pancetta, cooked, drained and crumbled or finely chopped
  • 1 pounds vine fresh peas (or frozen, thawed in fridge overnight)
  • ¾ cup coarse grated extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese
  • ½ small red onion, peeled, and finely diced
  • ½ cup of mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh dill, chopped fine

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Stir all ingredients together, put in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for several hours so the flavors have a chance to meld. Gently stir from top to bottom before serving. Store in fridge for up to 3 days, but it won’t last that long…trust me!

NOTE: The salad can be served immediately after making it, but tastes even better if allowed to sit, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for an hour or up to three days. It should be eaten within 3 days of being made, though.

What is your favorite way to serve peas?



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