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Vermont Garden Journal: Try Some New Delicious Varieties Of Peas

Julija Dmitrijeva
While green is the color of peas, there are many tasty and useful varieties.

Peas are one of our most ancient vegetables. Archeologists have found them in tombs and caves dating back 5000 years. The earliest peas were used as a dried vegetable in soups. Their popularity as a fresh vegetable caught on in the 1600's in Europe and we've been eating them that way ever since.

Most gardeners know shelling peas, snap peas (where you can eat pod and all) and snow peas (that are eaten before the peas form in the pod). However, pea varieties have evolved and now we have different colors and uses for this ancient crop.

While green is the color of peas, there are variations. I've grown "Golden Sweet" and "Royal Snow" flat-podded peas, and I was delighted by the golden and purple-colored pods with pink flowers. "Sugar Magnolia" is a purple-podded snap pea that forms tasty green peas. It's also loaded with tendrils and few leaves, so the pea pods are easier to find. The tendrils also make a great garnish in soups and salads. In fact, the tendrils and young leaves are tasty enough to eat on their own. I've often snipped the ends of my pea vines in the fall, before a frost, to harvest them for salads and stir-fries.

We all know peas love cool weather. Plant in raised beds when the soil has thawed and dried out. Soak the peas in warm water the night before planting to hasten germination. Pea seeds can rot in cool, wet soils, so the faster they germinate, the better. Sow in two rows with a wire or twig fence in between the rows. Use twig fences for dwarf varieties and wire for taller ones. Intercrop with radishes, lettuce and spinach to maximize the use of the space.

Now for this week's tip: add a bulb fertilizer to tulip and daffodil bulbs now as they emerge from the soil. This will create bigger bulbs and better flowering. If you wait until the flowers open, the fertilizer will be wasted.

James Stewart is Vermont Public Classical's afternoon host. As a composer, he is interested in many different genres of music; writing for rock bands, symphony orchestras and everything in between.
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