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home grown sugar nap & garden peasCultivated since ancient times, peas were dried and stored for use throughout the year during the Middle Ages.

Gregor Mendel, a 19th century Austrian monk, later used the lowly pea in important experiments leading to the study of heredity. The garden pea was also a favorite of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, who cultivated more than two dozen varieties at his plantation in Virginia.

Today, the garden pea is the first sign of spring in the home garden, a vegetable (technically, a legume) that likes its growth spurt short, cool and moist. Hardy and frost-resistant, sowing can be quickly accomplished as soon as the soil is warm enough to work in very early spring.

By far the most popular pea in the modern backyard garden is the smaller dwarf varieties of snap or sugar peas (snow peas) that are fast growing, need little staking or trellis support, and can be eaten pod-and-all, fresh from the vine.

When cooked, traditional shelled or frozen peas are great as a side dish, added to salads and casseroles, or used in soups. However, quick steaming or stir-fried in hot oil helps to better preserve flavor and nutrients. Not only prized for their just-picked flavor, peas are also a good source for vitamin A and vitamin C and iron.

For an additional yield of fresh garden peas, plant heat-resistant varieties in late spring or early fall.

Whatever the season, vines need to be planted in well-drained and aerated soil to avoid common diseases, such as fusarium wilt and root rot. Lessen the chances by planting wilt-resistant varieties such as Daybreak, Sparkle and Little Marvel (garden peas) or Dwarf Grey Sugar, Snowflake and Snowbird (sugar peas).

Other pests to watch for include slugs (set out beer traps or hand pick) as well as aphids, which can be remedied with a mild soapy solution applied to the leaves, or with chemical sprays for major infestations.

Peas fun facts, please:

• The 19th-century Austrian monk, Gregor Mendel, used pea plants in experiments that later became the basis for modern genetics.

• One serving of peas has more vitamin C than two large apples.

• Peas were among the first vegetables frozen and marketed by Clarence Birdseye in the early 20th century.

• Today, only about 5 percent of all peas grown are eaten fresh. More than half of all peas are canned and the remainder are sold frozen.

• Nothing beats the texture and flavor of fresh, home-grown peas!

On the Web - How to grow peas :


Watch Your Garden Grow - Peas - Check out expert and comprehensive advice on when to sow and plant peas, their proper care & feeding, related tips on pest control, with recommended varieties of garden, sugar & snow peas, plus nutritional value and health benefits.

How to Grow Peas - Illustrated tutorial for do-it-yourself pea gardening including suggested varieties, where and when to plant, trellising tips, pest & disease control, garden pea folklore & superstitions.

BBC - h2g2 - The Garden Pea - Here's a great archived read for gardeners and non-gardeners featuring pea history, trivia and other interesting garden pea facts along with practical advice on cultivation, gardening tips, related recipes.

You Grow Girl - Ensuring Your Bounty of Peas - Find good tips on how to get the best from your pea patch with focus on pre-planting, using inoculants, and extra phosphorus for hardy growth.

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