It’s still early enough to order and plant heirloom organic peas in many areas for summer harvest or to keep until fall. Once they begin producing, if you can manage to get any fresh garden peas into the kitchen, I have heard they add an excellent flavor to salads and can also be served as a side dish. They deliver a sweet satisfying flavor that’s addictive, making it difficult to gather enough for a meal. Choose a variety with an edible pod for extra fiber and flavor, although popping the pod open and scooping out the delicate peas that are nestled inside is half the fun of eating them.
Sow heirloom organic peas directly into the soil approximately 2-3 weeks before the last frost. Raised beds work well too; they will rot rather than germinate if the soil is too cold or wet. Peas can be planted in successive plantings about 1-2 weeks apart, and again in the fall. They tend to die out in the summer so should be planted as early as weather conditions permit. They'll grow best with support from trellises. These can be constructed of various materials such as bamboo or lathe and string. Another option that is attractive and adds biomass to the garden is to use organic oats.
• Alaska Pea Seeds are an early producer, ready in 55 days, and were introduced in 1881 advertising their short growing period. They do well in cool areas and produce heavy yields.
• Green Arrow Pea Seeds are a favorite from England featuring a 68 day growing period. Their 4-5 inch pods average 8-11 peas that are perfect for eating fresh or canning. It is a heavy producer but as with most varieties, prefers cool weather.
• Little Marvel Peas grow smaller plants and peas that remain sweet even once they have matured. The length of time until harvest is 62 days and the plant is wilt resistant.
• Thomas Laxton is a 65 day pea that has enjoyed widespread success since its introduction over 100 years ago. It has received rave reviews for sweet flavor, reliability and consistency. The plants grow much larger than many varieties, up to 3 ½ feet.
• Wando is an excellent pea to plant later in the spring or in areas with warmer weather as it is more heat tolerant than most varieties. The flavor isn’t quite as sweet as some, however it is a consistently reliable producer.
Shell peas are not the only types of organic heirloom peas available, edible podded peas that are excellent for stir fry and salads. Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea, Oregon Giant Peas, Oregon Sugar Pod II Pea Seeds, and Sugar Ann Snap Peas are popular choices for these deliciously sweet peas. Snow peas and snap peas vary from small plants such as the Sugar Ann at 2 feet, to the Mammoth (pun intended) 5 foot size. They enjoy the same growing conditions as shell peas and will produce edible pods in the same length of time.