Take a Step Back in Time and Grow Peas This Spring
One of the first crops we plant every year on the homestead is peas. They give us our first opportunity to really work in the soil. They are also one of the first vegetables we harvest. They are very easy to grow and preserve, so they are a great addition to any garden. You can even plant peas again in late summer for a fall crop. We start planting peas as soon as the soil can be worked. We plant both bush and vine varieties, we also plant sugar snap peas for stir fry and salads. We start planting seeds by turning over the soil and then making a small 1/2″ deep trench. We then place the seeds about 4″ apart in the trench.
Finally, we cover the seeds with soil. Some varieties require a support to grow on, and for those we construct a simple trellis system made from t-posts and some used garden fence. Over the years we have used all kinds of different materials, but these are the simplest to install and seem to last the longest. We simply put a t-post every 8 feet and then tie the fencing to the posts with wire. The least expensive wire we have found is in the masonry department at our local lumber yard, it is used to tie re-bar together so it is strong enough to do the job and the price is right. Sometimes we use wooden stakes for additional support.
In 7-10 days you should see your seedlings begin to emerge. It is so exciting to see new green in the garden. After a long winter those little green leaves can really lift your spirits. They grow fairly rapidly and really enjoy the cool weather.
Those little marvels will send out tendrils and climb up your trellis. We keep the weeds at bay by using an extra heavy weed guard, but weeding by hand is also a snap. As the days grow longer the peas will stretch for the sky .
Eventually white flowers will form and it is from these flowers that your pods will emerge. You can eat the pods when they are young or leave them on the plant to grow big round peas. We pick sugar snap peas when the pods are about 3″ long, but the best and most fun way to see if they are ready is to taste them. Peas are perfect for a snack in the garden, and often more make it into our mouths than into the house. Kids love to pick peas and eat them. You can teach them quickly how to pick them without damaging the plant. Some of my first garden memories are of picking peas and beans in my grandfather’s garden. Even then, very few made it back in the house to grandma.
We pick our peas when they are nice and round inside, again it takes a little trial and error to get the right size. Once the peas are picked it is time to shell them.
Sitting on the porch shelling peas truly brings you back to a simpler time. We often shell them at the end of the day and have an adult beverage with great conversation. The most wonderful part of shelling peas is that you cannot use your cell phone while doing it. Two hands are required and after a short time you really get the hang of it. A big bowl of pods does not yield a big bowl of peas, but they sure are worth the effort. We also feed the pods to our chickens and pigs so nothing goes to waste. Unless you have grown them you have no idea how good a fresh pea is. Frozen and canned peas are not even close.
Preserving peas is a snap. You just have to toss them into boiling water for about 30 seconds then shock them in ice water and freeze in a single layer. Once they are frozen you can put them into a good quality freezer bag. Every year we grow more and more peas aside from being a great side dish, they are a great addition to salads. They can also be a healthy snack. Growing anything in our garden has to be worth the effort and space we give it. Peas take up little space because they grow vertically, and because they grow quickly you can grow more than one crop a season. The time spent shelling them is almost as valuable as the nourishment they give us. Growing peas takes us back to a simpler time when people actually talked to each other. And after growing them you will never look at that big bag in the grocery store the same same. So grow some peas this year, and don’t forget to wave to your neighbor when they drive by.