I’m Eating Peas; You Could Be, Too

I was recently asked whether I prefer snow peas, sugar peas or shelling peas.

For eating in salads, I prefer snow peas. For cooking Asian dishes, either snow peas or sugar peas are acceptable with the exception that snow peas tend to be crunchier when not cooked to death.

But for eating as a single dish or adding to American style dishes, shelling peas are hard to beat. It takes time to shell peas, but the flavor of freshly harvested shelled peas that are steamed and not boiled is outstanding. When cooked in the microwave, shelled peas explode and appear mashed on the plate.

Peas are a great garden crop because you can depend on two harvest periods every year. A March planting of peas guarantee a bountiful June harvest, while an early August planting will guarantee a good October and often November harvest.-

Like beans, peas are leguminous plants. But neither fixes nitrogen as clover and soybeans do. They require that the nitrogen be supplied by either fertilizing or from the decomposition of organic matter such as compost.

As spring-planted peas grow into summer, the days grow longer and warmer, thus shortening the flowering season. The flowering and growth of pea pods can be extended by spraying the foliage with a fine mist of water during the heat of the day. As the water evaporates, plant tissues are cooled by a process known as evaporational cooling.

This very same process is used by bean farmers to extend the summer bean-harvesting season. When it gets too hot, bean plants will stop flowering and producing bean pods. Cooling the plants down by overhead irrigation between the hours of one and three o’clock in the afternoon reduces temperatures under the foliage of the bean plants, thus allowing the flowers to be pollinated and produce beans.

One of the problems with early spring planting of peas, especially in heavy soils, is rotting seeds. This is generally not a problem in sandy loams or loamy sands. To successfully grow spring-planted peas in heavy soils, first hill the soil as if you were planting potatoes. Next make a shallow furrow in the top of the hill for the seeds. The hilling of the soil will not only improve drainage but also will allow the soil to warm faster, thus encouraging early germination.

When planting fall peas, avoid hilling either sandy or heavy soils because peas germinate best when soils are cool. This can easily be accomplished by daily irrigations.

Fall planted peas have a longer harvest period because the cooler day and night temperatures extend the flowering season.

Compost Your Lawn

Q: My son plans to study to be a marine biologist, and he is concerned that commercial lawn fertilizers ultimately harm the Bay. What Bay-friendly alternative could we use to keep our grass green and healthy? Is composted cow manure a useful alternative?

P.S. I was fortunate in high school to have you visit my horticulture class (Mr. Heritage at High Point in ’76) to hear you speak on Christmas tree selection and care. I still remember a few of your pointers.

–Brian D. Beard, Chesapeake Beach

A: Compost of any kind is a great fertilizer alternative that produces long-lasting results and destroys thatch.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected] All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.