By Mara Higdon
A great addition to your early vegetable garden are snow peas. They are delicious to eat raw off the vine and also found in salads and other cooked dishes. Pack a handful of raw snow peas in a baggie for an afternoon snack! Snow peas are a great source of calcium and iron and benefit your immune system.
Snow peas thrive in cool weather and can be planted as soon as the soil is workable in the spring. The seeds germinate well in temperatures ranging from 40-55°F. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Snow peas planted later in the spring can be lightly mulched to conserve moisture. However, once temperatures hit 70-75°F, snow peas will not do well and will stop producing. Plant peas 1 to 1½” deep and 1″ apart in single or double rows. Allow 18-24″ between single or pairs of rows. Allow 8-10″ between double rows in pairs. You will need to provide support so put in a trellis when you plant the seed. I also like to dig a shallow trench a few inches away next to the row. This provides a trough for watering the seeds without disturbing them and in future waterings keeps water off the plants themselves as they can be susceptible to wilts and fungus.
Snow peas should be picked every other day before the individual peas mature or they will not be as sweet. They should also be eaten within a day or so of harvest for best taste. If you miss a few pods and they become tough on the vine, remove them to allow for other pods to form on the plant.
Varieties to try are ‘Oregon Sugar Pod II’ and ‘Dwarf White Sugar’. Oregon Sugar Pod II produces two pods on each node with pods being 3-4 inches long. The Dwarf White Sugar bears 2-2½” fruit 50 days after germination which is a plus when our mid-west temperatures soar quickly.
When picking your pods, be sure to use both hands or you may pull up the whole plant. Snow peas will store for up to two weeks in the refrigerator, but don’t wash them beforehand. Most of mine never make it to the kitchen! So try them this spring. I promise, you won’t regret it!
Mara Higdon is the Program Director at Gateway Greening. They focus on community development throughout the St Louis area.