Crop Spot: Snap Peas

Snap peas are a legume which means they are in the family of incredible plants that can “fix” nitrogen gas from the atmosphere into a usable form in the soil for other plants to access. Similar to snow peas (edible pod, flat) and English garden/shelling peas (inedible pod, round full appearance), snap peas (edible pod, round full appearance) are distinct in their sweet flavor, and snappy, juicy crunch. They’re a favorite vegetable among adults and children alike.

In the Garden

First, when selecting your seeds, make sure you’re purchasing a snap pea variety instead of an English Garden/shelling pea variety. I made the mistake of getting the wrong type one year and really missed the juicy, snappy sweet pea crunch!

Peas can be planted in early spring as soon as you can work the soil in your garden. In much of Montana this is in late March or early April. Peas are a cool season crop which means they can stand a bit of cold weather and do not like the hot heat of summer. Plant one snap pea seed every 1-2 inches in two parallel 1-2” deep trenches about 6-8 inches apart. Cover with soil and water well. Peas love climbing so be sure to add a trellis in between your parallel rows.

After planting, it will take about 60 days for your pea seeds to become fat, juicy pods ready to harvest. Harvest snap peas when their pods are full and round, about the width of a pinky finger. Once you begin harvesting, check them every 1-2 days to scout for additional ripe peas.

In Your Medicine Cabinet

In addition to tasting really good, snap peas are also really good for you. For a cup serving of snap pea pods (about a large handful), you’ll get the following health benefits:

  • 63% of the recommended intake of Vitamin C, which is important for immune health, skin integrity, wound healing, iron absorption and more.
  • 7% of your average daily fiber needs, which helps keep you full longer and remove waste/toxins from your body.
  • 20% of daily Vitamin K needs, which helps ensure your blood clots properly and bones stay healthy.
  • 6 g of plant based protein to keep your blood sugar stable and support muscle repair/recovery.

In the Kitchen

Most folks, young to old, love enjoying sweet, crunchy snap peas raw. I usually enjoy them whole and dipped in hummus or tossed into an easy spring salad. However, there are plenty of delicious and unique ways to enjoy these spring garden treats. Some of my favorite ways to eat cooked sugar snap peas:

  1. In pasta. Blanched snap peas are a great addition to a cold summer pasta salad or as a complement to asparagus in a pasta primavera.
  2. In stir fry. Add toward the last few minutes of cooking so peas retain their crunch.
  3. As a side dish. Snap peas go well with a lot of flavors: garlic, lemon, and sriracha

What are your favorite ways to eat snap peas? Do you have a unique preparation or recipe to share?

Photos: Harlequin Produce in Arlee, MT

Thanks to our friends at Taste the Local Difference in Michigan for sharing this blog post.

About the Author: Kelly Wilson is the Director of Community Partners for Taste the Local Difference. She lives in southeast Michigan where she is growing snap peas, and copious other vegetables, in her home garden. 

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