PISUM sativum 'Sugar Snap'
Plant Common Name
Garden Pea, Snap Pea
Snap peas have been cultivated in gardens since the 1800s and used to be called “butter peas”, but modern snaps, like ‘Sugar Snap’, bear little resemblance to the old types.
This hybrid was developed in the late 1960s by Dr. Calvin Lamborn and Dr. M. C. Parker for the Gallatin Valley Seed Company, a Boise, Idaho company dedicated to pea breeding and development. It was produced from a cross between a thick-podded shell pea and snow pea and became commercially available in 1979. That year it was chosen as an All-American Selections winner due to its crisp, fleshy, sweet pods that can be eaten straight from the vine. Sugar Snap peas are self-fertile and generally ready to harvest 53 to 58 days after seeding.
Few cool season crops are as satisfying and welcome in spring as the humble garden pea. Peas have been cultivated for their edible seeds and pods for thousands of years. Their area of origin is thought to be the eastern Mediterranean region, including Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, where wild pea plants still exist. These herbaceous annuals have four distinct cultivation types: pod peas that are shelled for fresh peas, pod peas that are shelled for dried peas, immature (mangetout) snow pea pods that are flat and crisp, and immature (mangetout) sugar snap pods that are crisp, fleshy and sweet. The plump, sweet edible pods of snap peas are easy to grow and fun to harvest.
This pea is a vining type, so it is best trellised. Its pale green leaves are compound with rounded leaflets arranged in pairs on the leaf stem. The leaves are tipped with branched, curled tendrils that curl around objects and help the fine pea stems climb. The white pea flowers are lightly fragrant. Each has a large, rounded upper petal subtended by smaller central petals that form a lip, or keeled beak. The blooms are produced in loose clusters on short stems among the foliage.
Full sun and rich, friable soil with good drainage is needed for vigorous growth and fruit set. Peas are cool season vegetables, so in the north temperate zones they are planted in early spring as soon as the soil is workable or in fall, once temperatures are cool again. In southern, frost-free zones they are planted in winter. Pea seeds should be directly sown in the ground because seedlings do not transplant well. Overwatering seeds before they germinate can lead to seed rot, so be sure to keep them moderately moist, never wet.
Like many members of the bean family, peas have a mutually beneficial relationship with a bacterium called Rhizobium, which allows plants to add nitrogen to the soil. Seeds and plants often do better if tossed in a commercially available Rhizobium inoculum before planting.