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The sweetest peas.

Fresh from the vegetable patch, tender, sweet home-grown peas win hands-down over their often starchy store-bought counterparts. And in the mild-winter West, August is pea-planting time. Now is your opportunity to experiment with one or several types in the garden.

If you're less inclined to spend time shelling, try crunchy, edible-pod snow peas, such as 'Oregon Sugar Pod II' or 'Norli', for stir-fry dishes or just steamed. The current favorite of many gardeners, juicy, thick-skinned snap peas like 'Sugar Snap' and 'Super Sugar Mel' (in our tests the two sweetest by far) are delicious when cooked or served raw with dips.

For traditional flavor, the delicate sweetness of French petit pois ("little peas"), such as 'Precovil' and 'Prim d'Or', is incomparable if peas are harvested just when pods start to expand. Because of their tiny size, shelling them takes a little more work.

Or choose from the dozens of varieties of common shelling peas available. 'Knight', 'Maestro', and semileafless 'Novella II' are particularly sweet and also resistant to powdery mildew--a disease that can cause serious damage in coastal areas when plants are grown in fall.

Soil temperature decides planting time

To germinate, peas prefer fairly warm soil (optimum is 75 [degrees], but most tolerate 40 [degrees] to 85 [degrees]; snap peas won't germinate well at the lower temperature); seeds rot in cool, wet soil. Later on, the air temperature must be mild (60 [degrees] to 65 [degrees]) to produce a good crop.

In desert or hot inland climates, you may have to wait until mid-September to plant. In mildest climates, you can plant seeds now through winter. However, in cold weather, plants grow slowly.

Choose a site in full sun

with well-drained soil

Soak the soil thoroughly before planting, then don't water again until sprouts poke through, unless the soil dries out. Sow seeds about 1/2 inch deep in heavy soil, an inch deep in sandy soil. Space 1 1/2 inches apart; don't thin plants. To extend harvest, make two or three successive plantings about 10 days apart, or plant kinds with varying maturity dates.

Irrigate with soaker hoses or drip, so water doesn't spray foliage (this increases the chance of disease); keep the soil moist but not wet.

For easy picking and higher yields, it's best to trellis even short-vined varieties (except semileafless kinds like 'Novella II', shown at far left, below). Use slender wire or netting. Holes should be at least 1 1/2 inches wide; tendrils don't cling well if spaces are small. Provide strong trellises for tall vines, such as 'Sugar Snap'; grow in a protected area in windy climates.

Pick off pods regularly or plants will stop producing. Harvest shelling peas as soon as pods plump up; pick petit pois daily. Snow peas should be picked before seeds expand, snap peas when seeds and pods are plump (pods are sweetest when fully expanded). Serve the same day; sugars turn to starch when peas are stored.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Article Type:Directory
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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