There is nothing better than eating fresh peas in the garden. You pop open a pea pod and the green pearls inside are as sweet as candy.
At North Dakota State University, we have worked with hundreds of families to identify the best peas for our state.
The finest pea is Lincoln, an heirloom variety from 1908.
I rarely like heirlooms. There is a reason why an heirloom becomes an heirloom. It’s called progress. For example, I didn’t ride a horse and buggy to work today. I drove a car. It’s called progress!
Nevertheless, a gardener once insisted that we include Lincoln in the North Dakota Home Garden Variety Trials. To my surprise, it won. Since then, Lincoln has won our pea trials every year we have tested it. It’s a champion!
Also called Homesteader, Lincoln grows on short, 30-inch vines that do not need to be trellised. Its yields are abundant, and its peas are sweet and tender. The pods of Lincoln pop open easily. It’s great for freezing. Lincoln is the only shelling pea variety I grow. Green Arrow, Knight, Little Marvel and Wando are other good choices.
Truth be told, I’ve always had issues with growing peas. It goes back to my childhood on the family farm. I had ten brothers and sisters so my parents froze lots of vegetables.
It seemed like our peas would always ripen on the Fourth of July.
We would pick bushels of peas in the morning and then spend the rest of the day shelling them. For every bushel of pods that was shelled, we ended up with only a bowl of peas. The cows got most of the harvest.
That made the cows happy but made no sense to me. We were so busy shelling peas that we often missed going to the fireworks. I hated shelling peas!
I wasn’t the only one.
A pea revolution spread across America in the 1980s. Snap peas were invented and the pea world changed forever. You could pick a bushel of peas and eat the entire bushel.
Even better, you didn’t have to spend every Fourth of July shelling peas. Our cows became sad, but my siblings and I loved watching the colorful fireworks.
The best snap pea for North Dakota is Sugar Ann. No other variety comes close. The vines are short and do not need a trellis. The yields are early and heavy. The pods are sweet, crunchy and juicy. My kids love them — and they love the fireworks too!
The pea revolution isn’t over yet.
There is a new, award-winning snap pea available. Called Snak Hero, the pods grow 4 inches long, look like beans but have the sweetness of snap peas. The pods are stringless and perfect for snacking. I can’t wait to try it this year.
Lastly, if you like eating salads or stir fries, you must give snow peas a try. Snow peas are harvested when the pods just begin to swell. The variety Oregon Sugar Pod II grows well here. Its yields are prolific and its pods are mild and crisp. If you like big pods, you will be delighted with Oregon Giant.
Find a spot for some peas in your garden this spring. Enjoy the sweetness!
For more information about gardening, contact your local NDSU Extension agent. Find the Extension office for your county at www.ndsu.edu/agriculture/extension/county-extension-offices.
By Tom Kalb, NDSU Extension Horticulturist