Peas are a fun summer harvest. There are many varieties (cultivars) of garden peas, all belonging to the legume family. Peas are a significant source of protein, containing twice the protein of cereals. The composition of pea protein is also much healthier than that of other grains. The main categories are sugar peas, which are harvested and eaten very young and snow peas or snap peas which have edible pods, but the tough string along the edges must be removed before eating. Snow peas are sometimes called Chinese peas and are mainly used in stir-fry dishes.  They are flat with small peas inside. Snap peas contain larger round peas, and the pods are also edible. The type of peas we find in cans or freezer sections are called English peassweet peas, or garden peas. The pods are firm, and peas inside are rounded, and they need to be shelled before eating.  Yellow-colored peas are available as dried peas, mainly in Asian grocery stores. Peas are being hybridized continuously to produce ever sweeter and more tender peas. Experiment with your next year’s harvest with seeds from various seed catalogs.

How To Eat Them

My favorite childhood way to eat shelled sweet peas was on fresh sourdough bread with butter and peas sprinkled on top of it. Snapping peas do not even need to be peeled/shelled. Add them to risotto, serve them as a side dish slightly sautéed in butter or freeze them for the winter months. If you missed harvesting them and they start drying up, remove them from the shells, dry them completely and store them as next year’s seeds. Dry peas can also be used for split pea soup.  

Peas and the Secret of the Human DNA

The Human Genome project unlocked our human DNA and was completed only in 2003. However, it all started in the 1850s with a monk Gregor Mendel, who began tracking pea plant characteristics in the garden of his abbey in my hometown of Olomouc, the Czech Republic, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. For this reason, Mendel is known as the father of modern genetics. He grew and studied about 28,000 pea plants in the course of his experiments. During his experiments involving the crossbreeding of pea plants, he coined the terms “recessive” and “dominant” genes in reference to inherited traits, a foundation for Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, as some of us may recall from our school days.  

pea pods in a bowl

Growing peas is an easy and fun family project, especially for children. The best time to start in our climate is as early as February. Late snow and frost do not harm the plant. It takes about 55 days from planting to harvesting. 

pea plants on a trellis growing in a garden

Peas are climbers, and they need a wire, string, or trellis for them to climb on. Radishes are a good planting companion to peas since they do not compete for space and sun.

closeup of peas on vine

Magda Born

Adult Services Librarian

Kansas City KS Public Library

625 Minnesota Ave

Kansas City, KS 66101



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