With the warm spring weather we have been enjoying, many vegetable gardeners are eager to get their gardens planted. The temperatures have been so warm it is tempting to plant vegetables that require warm weather to thrive, but we shouldn't forget here in the North Country, we will most likely experience several more frosty nights!
That doesn't mean we shouldn't be out working in our veggie patches. Now is the time to plant one of my husband's favorite vegetables - the pea. The pea, or Pisum sativum, is thought to have originated in Middle Asia and the central plateau of Ethiopia. By the Bronze Age (c. 3,000 B.C.) they were used by the inhabitants of Central Europe, were used by the Greeks and Romans, and were even mentioned in England after the Norman conquest. It is now a popular vegetable all over the world.
This legume can be planted as soon as the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees F and the plants grow best at temperatures of 55 to 64 degrees F. This plant does not thrive in the heat of the summer. But it can be replanted for a fall crop. Peas grow best in slightly acidic, well-drained soils.
There are many different varieties of the garden pea. With shell peas, the seeds are allowed to fully ripen, removed from the pod, and eaten. Snow peas and snap peas are eaten whole when the pod has reached maturity but prior to the seeds reaching maturity.
Vining cultivars can climb almost 6 feet high by curling their tendrils around any available support. Metal fences, twine, or netting supported by a frame can be used for a pea trellis. Traditionally a structure known as a pea brush was used, which is simply pruned tree branches thrust upright into the soil. There are several newer varieties that are low-growing and do not require a trellis.
I have many found childhood memories shelling and eating these sweet, nutritious veggies with my grandparents who grew a prolific amount of peas each spring. Now my husband and I share the joy trying to guess the number of peas each shell will contain as we shuck fresh garden peas with our children on our back patio.
Anne Lenox Barlow works at Campbell's Greenhouse in Saranac and has had experience in the agricultural field as a horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.