Monday, June 1, 2009

May the Best Pea Win!

It's nearly time for one of my favorite harvests of the year:  sugar snap peas!  They're easy to grow, prolific, and absolutely delicious!  Sweet, crisp, juicy, straight from the vine, it doesn't get much better than that!  And as far as healthy snacks go, sugar snap peas are an excellent choice. This year I'm trying out 3 varieties of sugar snaps to see which one I like the best.  They are: Amish Snap, an heirloom variety grown in the Amish community long before modern snap pea varieties (Seed Savers Exchange), Cascadia, an open-pollenated variety bred in the Pacific Northwest, and Johnny's Selected Seeds basic variety of Sugar Snap Peas.  

So far, the earliest and most vigorous-looking is the Amish snap.  The plants are already covered with pods that should be ready to eat in a few days.  Johnny's snap peas are coming in second, with nice tall vines, but no real pods yet.  Cascadia is in third place, with shorter plants, but lots of blooms.  I'll post updates later on overall yields and flavor.  

   Amish Snap Pea (left) Tall Telephone Shell Pea (right)
   Cascadia Snap Pea (left), Johnny's  Snap Pea (right)

Although it's much too late to plant peas now (they're a cool weather crop and should be planted in early spring) many people have asked me what the secret is to healthy prolific pea plants.  Aside from the usual (nice fertile soil), I like to soak peas overnight prior to planting, and I also use pea inoculant.  Peas are legumes, a family of plants that also includes beans, lentils, alfalfa, and clover, that have the ability to convert nitrogen from its gaseous form from the air to a form that is usable to all plants as food to support plant growth.  This process is known as nitrogen fixation, and legumes do this with the help of a family of soil bacteria known as rhizobacteria that live on their roots.  The rhizobacteria get carbohydrates from the legumes in exchange for converting nitrogen into plant food.  Pea inoculant is a powdered form of these rhizobacteria that work best with peas, and coating the pea seeds with this inoculant ensures that each pea plant will have plenty of these beneficial bacteria to help it grow.  I dig a 1" furrow, put in my soaked peas, then sprinkle on the inoculant before covering the peas with soil.  Water them in well, and by early summer you should have lots of wonderful peas to eat! 

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

I have never used pea inoculant. Thanks for the advice.