Growing snow peas from seed



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Pea Growing and Harvest Information

Germination 40-70 F
For Growth 60-65 F
Soil and Water
Fertilizer Light feeder. When inoculated, peas are N-fixing and need low N. Apply liquid seaweed 2-3 times per season.
Side-dressing With vines about 6″ tall, apply compost or an amendment high in P and K and low N
pH 5.5-6.8
Water heavy after blooms form
Planting depth 1″
Root depth up to 3′
Height 20″ – 6′
Width 6-10″
Space between plants
In beds 2-4″
In rows 1-3″
Space between rows 18-48″
Average plants per person 25-60
If a plant has only a few peas on it, pinch back the growing tip to encourage further fruiting. When pea pods are plump and before they begin to harden or fade in color, harvest them with one clean cut. Sugar snaps are best picked when plump and filled out. Harvest snow peas when they are young and underdeveloped. Pick peas every day for continuous production. Pea shoots, the last 4-6″ of the vine, can also be harvested for stir fry dishes and salads.
First Seed Starting Date 35-56 Days before last frost date
Last Seed Starting Date 70-100 Days before first frost date
Companions All beans, coriander, corn, cucumber, radish, spinach
Incompatibles Garlic, onion, potato

Where to Grow Peas

Peas are a cool season vegetable, and do best in a climate where there are two months of cool growing weather, either spring planting in the northern regions or fall planting in the warmer, southern regions. They are hardy to frost and light freezes.

Recommended Varieties of Peas

Peas have smooth or wrinkled seeds. Most of the varieties grown are wrinkled seed, since these are sweeter and more flavorful. The advantage of smooth seed is its toughness in withstanding rot in cold, wet soil, although many wrinkled seed varieties are now treated with a mild fungicide to prevent rotting. Plan on an average of 25-60 plants per person depending on how much you want to freeze, dry, or can for winter. Pole and climbing peas produce over a longer period and up to 5 times more than dwarf bush varieties.
Smooth seed – Alaska (55 days)
Early – Sparkle (60 days, dwarf), Frosty (64 Days); Little Marvel (64 days, dwarf)
Mid season – Lincoln (67 days); Wando (69 days), heat resistant)
Late – Green Arrow (68 days, long pods); Alderman (74 days, long pods)
Edible pod – Little sweetie (60 days, bush); Sweetpod (68 days, tall growing) Mammoth Melting Sugar (tall growing)
Field peas or cowpeas – California Blackeye (65 days); Brown Sugar Crowder (90 days)

Soil for Growing Peas

Peas can be planted as soon as the soil in your garden thaws. They will germinate once the soil temperature approaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and won’t grow much in temperatures much less than that. They prefer a sandier soil than most, with good drainage, but it is important that they do not dry out for extended periods of time. If your garden has a heavy clay soil, generous amounts of organic matter mixed in with your soil is the best way to improve it. Also, remember that peas have the ability to “fix” or generate nitrogen in the soil, and can actually leave the soil richer than it was prior to planting. Legume inoculates are available from seed suppliers for seed treatment, and is recommended, especially if beans or peas have not been grown in the soil before.

Planting Peas

Germination in 8-10 days

When –

The earlier the better. Seeds should be planted in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked. Do not plant in the hot summer months. Where winters are mild, a second fall crop could be planted in late summer, but where the summers are long and hot, this is not practical as the plants do not thrive, producing poor flowers and a disappointing crop. The simplest way to prolong harvest is to plant early, mid season, and late varieties at one time rather than sowing every 2 weeks. Gardeners with mild winters can plant peas in both spring and fall.

How –

Plant dwarf varieties about 8 seeds to a foot, about 1/2 – 1″ deep; and in rows 18-24″ apart. Tall-growing varieties should be planted in double rows 4-6 inches apart, 2 1/2 feet between double rows. Supports for climbing vines can be put in at planting time, or just as seedlings are 3 inches high. Peas can cross-pollinate, so for seed-saving, space different varieties at least 150′ apart. Dwarf varieties don’t need a trellis if you plant them close together. For support use twiggy bush, chicken wire fencing, or weatherized trellis netting sold commercially for vine crops.
Peas have fragile roots and don’t transplant well. While some gardeners recommend presoaking seeds, research has indicated that presoaked legume seeds absorb water too quickly, split their outer coatings, and spill out essential nutrients, which encourages damping-off seed rot. Yields can increase 50-100% by inoculating with Rhizobium bacteria.

How Peas Grow

Peas grow on pretty vines to 3 and 4 feet tall; their pinnate leaves are topped by a curly tendril, which grasps onto a support. The flowers are miniature sweet pea flowers, and pods begin to develop soon after the flowers drop. The dwarf peas do not grow taller than 2 feet, and do not need to be staked for support.

Cultivating Peas

Keep the rows weed free or mulch. After sowing, a thin line of fertilizer can be traced along either side of the row and worked in 3-4 inches from the plants. Too much nitrogen encourages foliage growth and not pods. Peas need constant soil moisture to keep developing well, and the ground should be watered when there is lack of rainfall.

Storage Requirements
Blanch shelled regular peas, whole snap peas, and snow peas before freezing
Temperature Humidity Storage Life
32 F 95-98% 1-2 weeks
Method Taste Shelf Life
Canned good 12+ months
Frozen excellent 12+ months
Dried good 12+ months

Harvesting Peas

Peas are ready to harvest in approximately 60-70 days. When pods of the peas appear to be swelling with rounded pea forms visible, they are ready for picking. Take a test picking every day or so, and note the appearance of the pods with the sweetest peas. If the pods are left on the vines too long, they become tough and starchy. Pick black eyed peas slightly before maturity. They should still be a light green with a purplish eye. They are still easy to shell at this stage and taste delicious. Pick the pods just before cooking, since they, like corn, deteriorate quickly after harvest. Choose a cool morning, not the heat of the day, or just after a cooling rain. The edible pod peas should be picked when the pods are well developed, but before they become swollen with the outline of peas.
Peas usually develop from the bottom of the vine up. Pull firmly but gently, and hold the vine with one hand so it is not jarred loose from its support when picking. When peas start to ripen, pick them often, and pull all ripe pods present each time to encourage development of more pods; otherwise the crop stops developing. You can pick peas for about 2 weeks once they start coming. After the harvest, turn under the plant residues to improve the soil.

Pests for Peas

  • Pea aphids -rotenone or pyrethrum

Diseases of Peas

  • Damping off -Buy treated seed
  • Downy mildew – Grow resistant varieties (green arrow)
  • Fusarium wilt – Grow resistant varieties

If this is your first time planting peas in the garden, you are probably wondering how long they will take to germinate, or sprout. Even if you have planted peas before, you may want to find ways to make your peas germinate faster.

So, how long does it take peas to germinate? Peas take 7 to 30 days to germinate. Peas will germinate faster if soil temperatures are 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You can speed up the germination process by soaking the peas for 24 to 48 hours before planting.

Of course, there are other factors that affect how quickly peas will germinate and grow. Let’s start by looking at how germination times vary. Then, we’ll go over some ways to give your peas the optimal environment to grow.

How Long Does It Take Peas to Germinate?

Peas will take 7 to 30 days to germinate, but this is a wide range. One important factor that affects time to germination is the soil temperature.

Time for Peas to Germinate by Soil Temperature

If soil temperatures are lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius), you may fail to see any germination at all.

In cooler soil temperatures in the 40s (4 to 9 degrees Celsius), it might take 3-4 weeks (21 to 30 days) for peas to germinate. You will also see a relatively low germination rate (the percentage of planted peas that sprout).

In warmer soil temperatures in the 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit range (16 to 21 degrees Celsius), peas can germinate in 1 to 2 weeks (7 to 14 days). The germination rate will be much higher in this scenario.

Higher germination rates will mean more plants and more pea pods!

For very warm soil temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) or higher, peas will germinate quickly, but the germination rate will be lower.

How and Why to Start Peas Early

As you can see, warmer soil temperatures will generally result in faster germination and better germination rates for peas.

The question is, why not wait until soil temperatures get warmer before planting peas? There are two parts to the answer.

First, the growing season may not be long enough to accommodate the peas if they are planted too late. Second, if temperatures get too high, the plants will stop producing flowers or peas altogether.

So, you will want to start your plants early enough so that they can grow to maturity and produce peas. Now, the question is how to do this. There are a few ways to proceed.

First, you can plant your peas outside in a cold frame, greenhouse, or under cloches. A cloche is a plastic container with a hole in the top, to keep the soil warmer for the plants.

You can start peas or other plants in a greenhouse to get ahead of the weather.

You can also start your seeds indoors and transplant them outside when most of the danger of frost has passed (more on this later).

Remember that pea plants can tolerate snow, but extended periods of frigid cold due to an excessively early planting will kill them.

How to Help Your Peas to Germinate Faster

If you want your peas to germinate faster, you have a few options to make that happen. The best place to start is with the specific variety of peas that you plant.

Soak the Peas

Peas need to absorb water after being planted in order to germinate. If the weather and soil are dry, you will need to water frequently to keep them moist. If temperatures are low, the process will go even slower.

Luckily, there is a way to circumvent some of the time you spend waiting for peas to germinate. If you soak your peas indoors first, they will germinate faster when you plant them, since they have already absorbed the water they need.

One option is to soak the peas in water overnight. I would recommend soaking the peas in water for 12 to 24 hours. Any longer than this and the peas might start to rot.

Once the peas start getting larger, you will know that they have soaked up some water and are ready to plant.

Another option is to wrap the peas in a damp paper towel, put the paper towel in a plastic bag or plastic wrap (sealed shut), and let them sit in a warm, sunny area.

This method may take longer (a few days), since there is less water available. You may also need to add extra water to the paper towel if it dries out.

When you see the peas just starting to sprout, you will know that they are ready to plant in the soil.

You can speed up the process even further by using a razor to cut slightly into the peas before soaking them. This will allow the peas to absorb water faster.

Remember that these methods only take 1 to 3 days or so, and your peas must be planted shortly afterwards. Otherwise, the soaked peas will rot, or the sprouted ones will have no soil to grow in. So, figure out your planting schedule ahead of time and plan accordingly if using this method.

Of course, you can also use a humidity dome if you wish, although it is not required. For more information, check out my article on humidity domes.

Use Newer, Younger Seeds

You can certainly use older peas for planting, and they can germinate even after several years. However, peas that are more than 1 or 2 years old will have a lower germination rate, and they will take longer to germinate.

To get the fastest germination possible, use the youngest peas that you can find.

Choose the Right Time to Plant

As mentioned above, soil temperature has a huge impact on the time it takes for peas to germinate. If you plant too early, a hard frost can kill the peas (although they can survive snow). If you plant too late, hot summer temperatures will prevent the plants from growing flowers and peas.

So, when is the right time to plant peas? A general rule is to “plant peas as soon as the ground can be worked”. This means that once the soil thaws and can be raked and dug with a shovel, you can plant peas.

The Farmer’s Almanac suggests planting peas 4 to 6 weeks before the last danger of frost. Check out this tool from the Farmer’s Almanac to find the last danger of frost for your area. Then, you can work backwards (4 to 6 weeks) to find your planting time for peas.

If there is still snow on the ground, you may have to wait. You can try to shovel the snow to reveal the soil. However, it the ground is still frozen, then you will need to wait a bit longer.

If you plant your peas at the right time, the plants will grow to maturity and yield a bountiful harvest.

Either way, you should check the weather forecast, and if the next week or so calls for temperatures below the mid-20s Fahrenheit (-4 degrees Celsius), then wait to plant.

Use Proper Plant Spacing and Seed Depth

If your peas are planted too deep or too shallow, they may germinate slowly, or not at all. Ideally, the peas should be planted 1 to 2 inches deep.

Also, each pea should be 1 to 2 inches apart. This will give them enough space to avoid competition as they grow.

Finally, plant your rows of peas 1 to 2 feet apart. The exact spacing is up to you, but it’s nice to have enough space to walk between rows when you need to water, fertilize, pull weeds, inspect your plants, or harvest your pea pods.

Water Your Peas Properly

As I said earlier, your peas need to absorb enough water before they can germinate. This will only happen if the soil you plant them in has enough moisture.

After planting your peas, keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged. The best way to do this is to feel the soil with your hands each day.

This pea pod came from a plant that got plenty of water during germination and growth.

If the soil feels dry, add water! The only exception is when a big rainstorm is coming. In that case, you should avoid watering. Check the weather forecast, to make sure you don’t drown your plants.

For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.

How to Help Your Peas to Grow Better After Germination

Even after your peas germinate, you still need to take care of them properly so that they grow to maturity to produce flowers and pea pods. There are a few ways to do this.

Your peas will want loose, well-draining soil, with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. You can add compost to your soil before planting to help with drainage.

You can test your soil pH by buying a soil test kit online or at a garden center. You can also send a soil sample to your local agricultural extension. For a small fee, they will test the pH and also tell you about any nutrient deficiencies and how to fix them. To learn more, check out my article on soil testing.

Remember that the three primary nutrients for plants are NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). Peas are a legume, which means that they work with soil bacteria to fix nitrogen from the air. This means that peas need less nitrogen than other plants.

Too much nitrogen will encourage pea plants to grow leaves at the expense of flowers and pods. Use a fertilizer that has less nitrogen and more phosphorus and potassium. For more information, check out my article on low-nitrogen fertilizers.

Alternatively, you can add wood ash (potassium) and bone meal (phosphorus) to your soil before planting, to supplement these nutrients without adding nitrogen.

You will get plenty of pea pods if your soil has the right nutrition.

Of course, you can always use good old-fashioned compost to maintain nutrient levels in your soil. For more information, check out my article on how to make your own compost.


Hopefully, this article gave you a sense of how long it will take your peas to germinate. You should also have some good ideas on how to speed up the process.

I hope this article was helpful – if so, please share it with someone else who can use the information. If you have any questions or germination tips for peas that you want to share, please do so in the comments below.

How To Grow Snow Peas – Planting Snow Peas In Your Garden

Have you ever thought about how to grow snow peas (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum)? Snow peas are a cool season vegetable that are quite frost hardy. Growing snow peas requires no more work than growing other varieties of peas.

How to Grow Snow Peas

Before planting snow peas, be sure temperatures are at least 45 F. (7 C.) and that all chance of frost for your area has passed. Although snow peas can survive frost, it’s better if it isn’t necessary. Your soil should be ready for planting snow peas. Make sure it is dry enough; if the soil is sticking to your rake, it’s too wet to plant. Wait until after the rains if you live in an area with heavy spring rain.

Planting snow peas is done by placing the seeds 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep and 1 inch apart, with 18 to 24 inches between rows.

Depending on your climate, it may be beneficial to mulch around your growing snow peas to keep the soil cool during the hot weather of summer. This can also help prevent the soil from getting too soggy during times of hard rains. Avoid planting in direct sunlight; growing snow peas don’t like all day direct sunshine.

Care of Snow Pea Plants

When cultivating around your growing snow peas, hoe shallowly so you don’t disturb the root structure. Fertilize the soil immediately after planting snow peas, then after picking the first crop, fertilize again.

When to Harvest Snow Peas

Care of snow pea plants simply requires waiting and watching them grow. You can pick them when they are ready to be picked — before the pod starts to swell. Harvest your pea crop every one to three days for fresh snow peas for the table. Taste them off the vine to determine their sweetness.

As you can see, the care of snow pea plants is simple and you can harvest a great crop less than two months after planting snow peas in your garden. They are versatile, used in salads and stir fries, or mixed with other vegetables for a medley.

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Learn how to grow Austrian winter peas to enjoy delicious pea shoots and flowers throughout the cool season — plus get dry peas for killer split soups!

When you think of cold weather garden plants that you can harvest throughout the winter, what comes to mind? Spinach, kale, cilantro, chickweed, arugula, claytonia… there are a ton of winter garden goodies to choose from that can tolerate temperatures down into the teens.

Well, we’ve got another one that you should add to your list: Austrian winter pea greens.

Tender young growth tips of Austrian winter peas. The greens taste like sweet sugar snap peas, but have the texture of lettuce. The pea pods are also good young, or left to mature and used as dried peas, can be used to make an unforgettable split pea soup.

Of all the winter salad greens we grow, Austrian winter peas are probably our favorite.

What do Austrian winter pea greens taste like?

Austrian winter pea greens

Austrian winter pea greens taste sweet and delicious, almost identical to sugar snap peas, but with a soft, lettuce-like texture. The greens are also high in protein and micronutrients.

Austrian winter pea pods

Yes, Austrian winter pea pods are edible and tasty too, but not as good as sweet pea varieties bred specifically for their raw pods. In our area, Austrian winter peas form pods in spring (around May).

They tend to get stringy quickly so pick them young for fresh eating or let them mature until the pods begin to turn tan in color to harvest as a dry soup pea. (They make amazing split pea soup!)

Field Peas Or Austrian Winter Peas?

Most Americans who have heard of Austrian winter peas sometimes call them “field peas” in reference to how they’re grown on large swaths of farmland either as a soil-improving cover crop or as a tempting deer fodder for avid hunters. The pea greens are also popular with wild turkeys.

If you keep backyard poultry like chickens or ducks, your birds will love these greens and subsequently lay eggs with even more nutrition for you (more on that below).

The most cold-hardy pea variety?

In Asian cuisines, the truly delicious leaves of Austrian winter peas have been a culinary treat for centuries. They’re quickly catching on in U.S. supermarkets and restaurants amongst foodies as well.

A densely sown cluster of young Austrian winter peas sprouting in fall in Greenville, SC.

Though closely related to the same pea species that snow peas, sugar snaps, and English peas are bred from, Austrian Winter Peas are far more cold-hardy. We’ve had Austrian winter peas survive without protection down to about 10°F.

We live in Zone 7b and grow Austrian winter peas throughout the fall, winter, and spring. The plants will overwinter without protection in USDA zones 6 and warmer (down to about 10°F).

Austrian winter peas do NOT like hot weather, so growing them in the summer is possible only in the coolest, northernmost climates.

Grow food, build soil with Austrian winter peas

As if all the benefits above weren’t enough to make you love them, Austrian winter peas are also nitrogen-fixers. That means they boost the bioavailable nitrogen levels in your soil while improving soil microbiology, thereby helping your next round of crops grow better.

How do they do this? Peas and other members of the legume family — with the help of natural rhizobia bacteria — form a symbiotic relationship in order to “make” fertilizer by harvesting atmospheric nitrogen and fixing it in your soil.

Austrian winter peas also grow quickly and their abundant “biomass” (stems and leaves) can be used as either:

  1. an excellent weed-blocking mulch for the top of your garden beds; or
  2. high-nitrogen material for your compost.

Austrian Winter Peas: Planting & Harvesting Tips

My favorite way to plant Austrian winter peas for edible shoots is to dump an entire packet into a 2’ x 2’ patch and spread the seeds out more or less evenly before putting an inch of soil on top. It’s okay if the seeds are so dense that some of them overlap since the purpose is to create a “chia pet” effect of salad greens right outside the kitchen door.

Plus, pea seeds are one of the easiest to germinate of anything you will ever grow! Once the tangled mat of vines reach 8” or taller, it is easy to sheer off the tender tips with scissors and put them in your salad bowl or stir fry.

When and how to harvest Austrian winter pea shoots

A succulent growth tip on an Austrian winter pea plant. This section should easily snap or pinch off by hand and be perfect for eating.

The way to tell if you are harvesting Austrian winter peas at the right stage is if:

  1. You can easily pinch of snap off the pea shoot with your thumb an index finger.
  2. You like their texture when you eat them. If you find them stringy or tough, you need to pick younger growth.

Pro tip: raw, cubed salad turnips (like the variety ‘Tokyo Market’) on a bed of pea greens with pecans or walnuts and a vinaigrette is one of the greatest joys as a winter lunch.

Mmm, winter salad with Austrian winter peas, radishes, turnips, and winter garden greens.

Frost harvesting warning:

Make sure never to harvest pea shoots (or other greens) when they are covered in frost because it causes the plant cells to shatter. Then the greens will wilt and discolor before they reach the table.

They can still be eaten cooked, but aren’t pleasant in a leafy salad. So always wait until the day warms enough to thaw them before harvesting!

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Peas don’t just produce tasty pods, they also produce delicious foliage. The best part is the tender young growth shoots, which taste just like peas, but have a soft, silky texture. Our fave variety for shoots is Austrian winter peas. Here’s a quick video showing you how to harvest them from the plant. #austrianwinterpeas #heirloomseeds #organicseeds #GrowJourney

A post shared by Tyrant Farms (@tyrantfarms) on Apr 13, 2017 at 1:10pm PDT

How To Grow Austrian Winter Peas In Colder Climate Zones

If you live in northern climate zones with heavy snow, you may need a cold frame or low tunnels/pollytunnels in order to grow Austrian winter peas in the coldest months.

Zones 5 and colder should plant Austrian winter peas in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked. Tropical areas with mild winters can plant Austrian winter peas in the shade during the coolest part of the season or in a pot in a sunny window indoors.

Greatest Visual Impact In An Edible Landscape

Even though Austrian winter peas are a common “cover crop” that farmers broadcast on their fields through the cold season and later incorporate into the soil to build its fertility, they have incredible ornamental potential in an edible landscape.

Various Brassica crops (front) and a young dense patch of Austrian winter peas in the back. Notice the trellis over the peas, giving them a structure to grow on as they mature.

I think the succulent, sea-green foliage of peas has one of the prettiest hues of any leaf in the garden. It’s even mottled with white like the foam on the waves. Not to mention the grace of the twining vines and tendrils or the jewel-bright purple-pink bicolored flowers.

Austrian winter pea flowers are absolutely gorgeous – and delicious!

Austrian winter peas grow so quickly in mild weather that they’re also instant gratification or a very fast way to hide eyesores in the landscape. I use them in a mix with winter oats, parsley, arugula, radishes, and other cold-season herbs and plants to both give my poultry a healthy snack in the winter and to hide the birds’ bare-brown winter run from view.

I seed a 1-2 foot wide border all along their fence which they reach through to grab tasty greens, thus keeping the plants trimmed. By spring, the peas have fully climbed the fence and burst into a glorious display of bee-friendly flowers. So consider using Austrian winter peas to hide winter views of utility boxes, trash or compost bin storage, bare garden trellises, or chain-link fences.

In very cold areas, they may not grow until early spring, though Austrian winter peas started early enough in the fall usually manage to overwinter under the snow to get a head start on the weather warming up. As long as the plant’s crown near the soil doesn’t freeze and die, it will re-sprout. The closer the plant’s tissues are to the residual warmth of the soil, the less likely it is to freeze solidly.

This is also a great plant to seed en masse near the kitchen door so that you can quickly come out and give it a haircut for the evening dinner salad. Surround it with cold-hardy flowering kale or pansies and cover it with a cloche or low tunnel when there are hard freezes to keep it beautiful all winter.

A delicious handful of Austrian winter pea shoots harvested in the winter.

Austrian winter peas will put out active growth every time the temperature outside or under their cover is 40℉ or warmer, otherwise they will hunker down and wait for warmer days. Make sure to always remove their cover when it is 50℉ or warmer outside to prevent them from getting too hot and dying.

Container Gardening With Austrian Winter Peas

Austrian winter peas are one of the easiest seeds to grow and sprout and they do fantastic in containers, even if you crowd them. You can actually achieve a pleasing “chia” look by continually giving them a symmetrical haircut, or you can add a topiary ball or chicken wire sculpture and let them climb and cover it.

Another option is to plant a border of Austrian winter peas around the outer edge of a tall container and put something else in the center of the pot: perhaps some colorful chard, a statuesque Lacinato kale, a smattering of pansies, or a colorful mix of lettuce.

Without a trellis, the peas will cascade down the side and be a beautiful “spiller” in the container design formula of “thrillers, fillers, and spillers.” If it is a very large pot you could also surround a single kale specimen with shorter plants like arugula, pansies, or a lettuce mix to use as the “filler” (the kale would be the “thriller” and the Austrian winter peas “spiller” would pull the combo together).

Always bring containers indoors when there will be more than a light frost, since the roots are more likely to freeze in a pot. (Hard freezes will cause the plants to brown and be less visually attractive.) Additionally, some garden planters do not hold up to hard freezes and their ornamental glazes flake off or the container itself may crack and split.

Again, as mentioned previously, make sure never to harvest pea shoots and other greens when they are covered in frost because it causes the inner cells to shatter and the greens will wilt and die before they reach the kitchen. Frozen greens can still be eaten cooked, but aren’t pleasant in a leafy salad. Instead, always wait until the day warms enough to thaw them before harvesting.

We hope you now know how, when, and why to grow Austrian winter peas AND how to enjoy their delicious edible leaves, flowers, and pods.

Happy gardening!



By Sara Malone, Sonoma County Master Gardener Peas are cool-season, frost hardy plants, making them an ideal part of the Sonoma County winter vegetable garden. We are fortunate here in that even when we have frost, it is extremely rare that the ground is too hard to work. It is sometimes too wet to work, as immediately after rain, but if you avoid the soggy times you can start peas in the County any time between late November and late February.
There are several types of peas: garden peas, snap peas and sugar peas (snow peas). The pods on the latter two are edible when picked when the peas are still immature and small; the garden pea varieties are those that need shelling before eating. All are delicious – especially when fresh from the garden. Anyone who thinks that he doesn’t like peas should grow them and see – peas are like tomatoes in that the fresh ones don’t even remotely resemble the sad specimens presented at most groceries or restaurants.
Peas generally need something to climb on – your tomato structures can often be put to use in their off-season for this purpose. Wrap some plastic netting around the tomato cages and you have a perfectly adequate structure for peas. You can also string netting between fenceposts. Peas, unlike tomatoes, are not heavy plants and just need something to attach themselves to. I have also planted peas in rows and then interspersed the rows with multi-branched leafless twigs of a foot or so in length – the plants scramble happily over the ‘cage’ that the twigs make. They are a bit harder to harvest this way, but it works! There are also pea varieties which are short and don’t require a climbing structure – read your seed package labels carefully.
Sow peas directly into fertile, loosened soil. It works best if you work some compost in before you plant. They should generally be planted about 1-1.5” deep, in either single or double rows, depending on your climbing structure. I plant several plantings 2 weeks apart, to extend the growing – and eating! – season. Peas are attractive plants with decorative ‘curlicues’ that they use to cling to the netting or wire. Peas will produce as long as the plants are healthy and the weather stays cool – and at my house as long as I can protect them from marauding rabbits, who love the tender green shoots. I use a temporary low fence of chicken wire, which usually does the trick.
Pick your peas according to what type you have planted – garden peas should be picked when the pods swell and you can discern the peas inside, and they feel firm. Experiment a bit at first – don’t wait too long to pick or they will be starchy. Snap peas should be picked earlier – when the pods have started to swell, but the peas inside are smaller. If you wait too long on these you’ll really be sorry – the pods will get stringy and unpleasant to eat and you’ll have to shell them just like garden peas. Pick snap peas every couple of days – there is not a lot of margin for error here. Snow peas should be picked even earlier – when you can barely discern the peas inside. They’ll look just like the snow peas that you buy at the grocery store or eat in restaurant dishes – it will be pretty obvious when to pick them.
No matter which type you plant, be sure to treat them delicately in the kitchen and don’t overcook them. Lightly steamed and served plain they are absolutely sweet and delicious. You can really go to town and top with a little butter or lemon and salt and pepper, or puree them or make fresh pea soup, a classic early spring first course. Or, you can eat them my favorite way – peas are the winter version of cherry tomatoes. I can’t help thinking that they taste best right off the vine while I am out ostensibly ‘working’ in the garden.
Pea seeds are available at garden centers, nurseries and mail-order or internet specialty seed sources. Experiment with a few varieties to see which you prefer. You may even find starts in six-packs at nurseries such as Harmony Farm Supply in Sebastopol.

©Sonoma County Master Gardeners

Growing Peas

Botanical Name:

Pisum sativum


Peas are small, plump edible round green beans which grow in pods from vines. As members of the Legume family, peas are easy to grow, high in nutritional value and a popular garden vegetable in many countries around the world.

Planting Time:

Plant peas in late winter or early spring as soon as soil can be worked. Peas grow best at 60º to 65ºF and development slows at higher temperatures. Fall crops should be sown six weeks prior to the last frost.


full sun with protection from the wind.


loose, well-drained, nutrient-rich soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5.


Sow seeds 1 to 2 inches deep and 1 to 2 inches apart. Allow for 18 inches between rows. If planted in 16 inch-wide double rows, peas will support each other as they grow and form a dense cover to inhibit weeds. Advertisement


Keep soil moist (not wet), especially at root level.


Peas can be trained to climb on fences or trellises to keep pods off the ground and vines from taking over the garden. Peas need very little fertilizing and actually leave behind nitrogen in the soil as they grow. This makes them excellent companions for tomatoes (and other plants), keeping them warm in early spring (by surrounding tomato cages) and boosting the soil with nitrogen.

Harvesting & Storage:

Harvest garden variety peas just as peas plump up and begin to touch in the pod. Snap peas should be bulging within the pods, and snow peas are best when 3 to 4 inches in length but still flat. Cut pods from vines with scissors instead of pulling.

Diseases and Pests:

Practice crop rotation to inhibit common pea problems and distribute plant-boosting nitrogen evenly throughout your garden. Advertisement

Tips to Success:

Inoculants contain a bacteria found naturally in soils that helps roots convert nitrogen into forms that plants can use. Speed up this natural process by inoculating peas prior to planting for higher yields. Inoculants are available at garden centers and mail order seed companies.

How to Cook With Snow Peas

A trip to your local farmers’ market should be enough to convince you that summer is almost here. Baskets are overflowing with colorful vegetables and salad greens. One of the first spring vegetables to come to market is the snow pea.

What are Snow Peas?

Bright green snow peas – often used in Asian stir-fries – are not to be confused with snap peas. Both are part of the legume family of sugar peas and have edible pods. Snow peas are flat with tiny seeds that are barely visible through the pods. Sugar snap pods are plump, with visible peas. Low in calories and high in Vitamins A and C, snow peas are a great addition to a healthy diet.

How do I Choose Snow Peas?

Look for snow peas up to three inches long that are light green in color with smooth, firm skin. Stay away from peas that are overgrown, cracked, wilted or have small spots of rot. As with any tender garden vegetable, they are best consumed within two days. For longer storage, they can be washed, drained and refrigerated in a perforated bag away from strong odors for up to 1 week.

How do I Prepare Snow Peas?

Very versatile and one of the easiest vegetables to prepare, snow peas can be enjoyed au natural, added to salads, served raw with any kind of dip, or sautéed and buttered. Before cooking or eating them, there are two things to do: rinse them in water, then grab or cut the tip of each snow pea and pull out the tough string that runs along its side.

No matter how you cook them – boiling, steaming, stir-frying or blanching – snow peas need only one to three minutes. Quick cooking will also retain their vibrant color and vitamins.

Here are 10-plus Ways to Use Snow Peas:

  1. Snow peas sautéed in sesame oil with minced garlic and a ripe red pepper makes an easy vegetable side dish. Sprinkle a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds on top and serve! In this simple snow pea dish, substitute mint for the red pepper and add pine nuts!
  2. Using just a few ingredients, The Minimalist, Mark Bittman shows us the easiest way of all to prepare snow peas.
  3. Similar to green bean salad, Swedish Vegetables are marinated in a simple brine. This quick recipe takes just 5 minutes to toss a few bags of frozen vegetables together. Forget it in the fridge for 24 hours, pull it out and serve. You can’t get much easier than this!
  4. A “knife and fork” salad with a creamy-style dressing, Butterhead Lettuce with Spring Radishes and Peas with White Balsamic Vinegar Dressing is cool and refreshing for a hot summers night.
  5. As an appetizer, snow peas make the perfect dipper. They don’t require any chopping and they’re a fun alternative to celery! This list of nine Hot and Cold Dips will give you plenty of ideas for summer entertaining. Served as part of a Vegetable and Dip Platter, snow peas will help get your party underway!
  6. Offer more substantial spreads like Heart Healthy Shrimp Dip and Sun Dried Tomato Hummus with Snow Peas on pita wedges or toasted baguette slices.
  7. Spaghetti with a Twist is made with cold spaghetti, udon or Chinese rice noodles. Bright green snow peas and bold red bell peppers tossed in a peanut sauce made with peanut butter, gets its kick from red pepper flakes and garlic. Super easy to prepare and beautiful too!
  8. Cristin Dillon from Eat Like Me, makes Spicy Chicken and Snow Peas look as delicious as it is healthy! If hot and spicy has you running for a glass of water, cut back on the chili paste and garlic. Lots of color with fresh veggies and of course, snow peas!
  9. Here, Kathy shows us how to make Fried Rice. She uses frozen peas in this recipe, but you could easily substitute frozen snap or snow peas for authentic Asian Fried Rice.
  10. If you’re looking for an elegant hot dish that’s quick and easy to prepare, Asian Beef with Snow Peas can be whipped up in 15 minutes! Served with a side of brown rice or egg noodles, this garlicky-ginger steak dinner will soon become a weekly favorite!
  11. Vegetarians will love this protein-packed tofu dish. Crisp snow peas and succulent mushrooms swim alongside crispy sautéed tofu in a very easy and flavorful sauce. Healthy eating made simple!

Buy local. Buy fresh. Find a farmers’ market and look for the bright green snow peas!

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How to trim and cut snow peas

Remove the “thread” from the pea pods (AKA trim sugar snap peas) for the best taste results. Its a tedious process, but, totally worth it. This recipe, like other pea recipes calls for trimmed peas. To trim your snow or sugar snap peas, simply cut or snap off the top end and pull. The really ingenious thing about this salad is the way the snow peas are cut. As Ellie explains in her headnotes, “Cutting the snow peas on a.

Step 1: Place snow peas on a chopping board. Use a sharp knife to trim ends and remove the thin string from one side of the snow pea. Step 2. Slice the snow peas makes them easier to handle and to eat. Cutting on the bias exposes more surface area of the. Question: How do you trim a snow pea? Answer: Snow peas and snap. If this isn’t working, then use a paring knife to cut from the curved.

I do trim them, but not as rigorously as you do. I really just take off the tips. There is an exception to this though. The ones you show in the. Instead, trim around the leaves with the tip of a paring knife, cutting a cone How to Trim Sugar Snap Peas (This also works for snow peas.). Prepackaged fresh or frozen sugar snap peas come trimmed, but those bought Place a sugar snap pea pod on its side on the cutting board.

This might seem silly, but I’ve never gotten how to trim snow peas (I’m Sometimes I’ve just given up and cut both sides of the snow peas with. Very versatile and one of the easiest vegetables to prepare, snow peas can be enjoyed au natural, added to salads, served raw with any kind of dip, or sautéed . You’ll find links to some of our favorite sugar snap pea recipes after the jump. Cleaning and trimming: Sugar snaps have strings on both seams that If using in a stir-fry or pasta dish, you can leave them whole or cut into.

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