As soon as peas
harvested from the plant, the sugar in the peas starts to turn to starch. To truly enjoy how sweet and tasty peas can be, aim to pick and cook within an hour.
There are several different types of peas which are also classified by when they are sown, these being First Earlies, Second Earlies and Maincrop.
varieties, which are so named because the peas remain round and smooth when dried. They are all first earlies and are hardier and quicker to mature than othe types.
varieties, so named as they are wrinkly when dried. These 'marrowfat' varieties are generally the most popular type of pea as they are heavy croppers which produce large, sweet peas although they are less hardy than Round varieties so are not suitable for sowing prior to March. Wrinkled peas are divided into First Earlies, which are the first to be sown in the year in mid March and therefore the first to crop in June/July. Mildew resistant First Early varieties such as Kelvedon Wonder can also be sown in June for an autumn crop. Second Earlies are sown in late March /April and Maincrop are sown in April/May for an August crop.
are dwarf varieties producing very small and particularly sweet peas.
, otherwise known as sugar snaps or snow peas are generally easier to grow than normal peas and should be picked prior to the peas swelling. They are cooked whole and good in stir-fries.
which isn't really a pea at all. It is sown in May as it is not hardy and produces small pods which are picked when still young and cooked whole like mangetout.
Soil & Growing Position
You shouldn't grow peas in a place where peas or beans have been grown in the previous couple of years as the soil will be high in nitrogen from the previous crop. Peas, like beans, are legumes which very cleverly convert nitrogen from the air and fix it in their roots so you do not have to feed them with extra nitrogen. As peas make their own, too much nitrogen can have an adverse effect. Similiarly, do not add a nitrogen dressing to the soil. When you've finished cropping, dig the plants into the soil which will release the nitrogen, ready for the next crop. Brassicas are traditionally grown in the area of the plot previously occupied by legumes.
Peas need a well-structured, fertile soil to provide an optimum yield. If your soil is acidic, add in some lime. Dig in autumn/winter adding in well-rotted manure or compost and apply a general fertiliser to the soil 2 weeks prior to sowing.
Use cloches to warm the soil prior to sowing First Earlies which need a sheltered spot, away from cold winds.
Sowing from Seed
For a May/June crop: Sow First Early Wrinkled or Round varieties, in February/March under cloches. Do not sow them in cold and wet soil so it is advisable to warm the soil first.
For a June/July Crop: Sow a Round or First Early Wrinkled variety in mid March. Sow a Second Early Wrinkled variety in late March/early April.
For an August crop: Sow a Maincrop Wrinkled variety in April/May.
For an September/October crop: Sow a First Early Wrinkled variety with good mildew resistance in June/July.
Prepare trenches for sowing, 2” deep, 6” wide and as wide as the variety is tall. Seeds should be lightly pressed into the soil, 3” apart from each other, recovered with soil and firmed down lightly.
Mangetout & Petit Pois: Sow in April/May when the weather has warmed up.
Asparagus Pea: Sow seeds in mid/late May, 6” apart in 1” deep drills, 15” apart.
Birds are a real nuisance so net the row straight after sowing. Once the seedlings are about 3” high, put sticks next to the seedlings to provide support for the developing plant otherwise they will trail over the ground and be eaten by slugs. Erect a screen of plastic netting at the side of each row to provide support for medium or talling growing varieties.
Hoe as usual to keep the weeds at bay and water during dry spells. Apply a mulch to retain moisture between the rows during the dry weather.
Pods are ready for picking when the peas feel full but there is space between the peas in the pod. Start to pick from the bottom of the plant upwards, picking with one hand and holding the stem of the plant with the other. You should pick regularly to encourage production and pods should only be left on the plant if you intend to dry them. Once harvesting has finished, the roots can be left in the ground to release their nitrogen and the plant stem can be composted.
Mangetout & Petit Pois: Harvesting starts in late June and runs through to early/mid September when the pods are aound 3” long and the peas are just starting to develop.
Asparagus Pea: Harvesting starts when the pods are just over 1” long, in early August and runs for several weeks.