By Tom Kalb, Horticulturist
One of the joys of life is eating fresh peas in the garden.
You pick the pods, shell them and pop the peas into your mouth. Sweet and delicious! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, give it a try this spring.
The cold weather this spring has delayed planting, and many of us will be sowing peas this week.
The first step is to select the best pea variety. Research conducted by hundreds of gardeners in North Dakota have identified the finest varieties of peas for us. Here is what we discovered:
Shell peas: ‘Lincoln’ is the finest, most reliable pea for gardeners in North Dakota. We have compared ‘Lincoln’ with many varieties during an 11-year span. ‘Lincoln’ excels every year. It is an amazing track record, covering all kinds of weather conditions.
In 2019, 92% of gardeners recommended ‘Lincoln’ to other gardeners. ‘Lincoln’ germinates reliably and matures early. Its sturdy vines are productive and yield for an extended period. ‘Lincoln’ pods are large, attractive and easy to shell. Its peas are sweet and delicious.
Other noteworthy performers include ‘Green Arrow’ (large pods), ‘Wando’ (resists heat), ‘Knight’ (robust vines and yields) and ‘Maestro Improved’ (early). Good varieties for freezing include ‘Early Frosty’ and ‘Little Marvel;’ these varieties ripen early and have a concentrated yield.
Snap peas: Introduced 40 years ago, snap peas were hailed as the greatest vegetable of the 20th century. Snap peas let you enjoy the flavor of peas without the need of shelling them. The crunchy, juicy pods are absolutely delicious as a raw snack or lightly cooked.
‘Sugar Ann’ is the finest snap pea for North Dakota. Its vines are dwarf (do not require a trellis), healthy and productive. Yields are early and the pods are delicious. We have tested it for six years, and it was judged superior by gardeners every year. Last year it was recommended by 88% of gardeners.
One of the most famous snap pea varieties is ‘Super Sugar Snap.’ This tall-vined variety requires trellising. It grows vigorously and produces high yields. It was recommended by 71% of gardeners last year.
Snow peas: These edible-pod peas are harvested just as the peas inside the pods begin to swell. Snow peas are wonderful when used in stir-fries and salads. ‘Sweet Horizon’ produces the highest quality pods; these pods are bright green, sweet and straight. ‘Oregon Sugar Pod 2’ will produce earlier and higher yields. For large pods, you can’t beat ‘Oregon Giant.’
Would you like to test promising varieties in your garden? North Dakota State University welcomes you to join our team of backyard garden researchers. It is one of the largest teams of agricultural researchers in the nation. More than 250 families have joined our team this year, and you can join, too. The trials are fun and easy to conduct.
For more information, go to https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/homegardenvarietytrials and download our seed catalog. We are testing many different kinds of vegetables, herbs and flowers this year. All gardeners are welcome to participate. It’s a fun project for kids, too.