Dear Readers,

April’s plant of the month is snow peas. Ours have stood up to hard frosts, snow and 80°F sunshine.

Snow peas

Early spring snow peas

Snow peas are ones which you can eat the whole pod without having to pod the mature peas, similar to the mangetout English readers will be familiar with.

Snow peas are part of the Fabacea family which also include fava beans, climbing beans and peanuts.  Members of this family are a great sources of protein as well as being able to fix nitrogen with the root nodules which contain bacteria which live symbiotically with the plant to fix the nitrogen from the air so the plant can utilize it.

If used as a green manure, you would dig it in when the plants are green and at the flowering stage.  This plant matter will rot down quickly, ultimately releasing nitrogen into the soil to be utilized by other plants.

The first pea seedling of the year

The first pea seedling of the year

To grow, they like phosphate and potash and a good fertile soil which has had plenty of organic material (compost, manure etc.) incorporated into it.  A light soil will give you an early crop, whilst a heavy clay soil will give you a later crop.  They prefer a cooler climate with plenty of moisture.  Too much water when they are ripening will lead to mildew.

Sow in spring or autumn to avoid the hottest part of summer.

Peas like to grow up pea frames or twiggy sticks as supports; there are dwarf varieties available which don’t require supports.  We’re using tomato cages as supports for our snow peas.

Protection from birds is often needed which can be made from netting or chicken wire.

Other pests for peas include the pea and bean weevil, pea moth and thrips.

Start harvesting the snow peas when the pods are about 2 inches long.  These are great in salads, a partner to dips or even as a soup.

Snow pea flowers

Snow pea flowers

Snow Pea Soup

1 oz butter
1 onion, finely chopped
4 oz dried split peas, soaked for 1 hour in water according to the pack instructions
1 1/2 pints stock,vegetable or chicken
9 oz snow peas
salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter and gently cook the onion for 5 minutes in a covered saucepan. Add the split peas and stir to coat in the butter.  Add the stock and cover, bringing to the boil and simmer for until the split peas are tender (around 30 minutes).  Add the snow peas and simmer for 5 minutes.  Cool then blend smooth in a liquidizer or a hand blender.  Season to taste and reheat just before serving.