Snap peas are a sweet delight to snatch off the vine and snack on, one of my favorite vegetables to grow.
Sugar snap peas, or just "snap peas" are a variety of ordinary peas, and also snow peas. The difference between these varieties is that snap peas and snow peas do not have the inedible fiber in their pod that regular peas do, so the pod is edible. Snow peas are eated while they are very young and the seeds are immature. Snap peas are very sweet and allowed to plump before eaten.
Snap peas make a great snack. For some reason a lot of us like our snack foods to have a nice crunch to them, like potato chips. Snap peas do not disappoint.
In my house, snap peas hardly ever make it indoors. We tend to eat them straight off the vine as soon as they are ready. This year I'm planning to grow a lot more so this doesn't happen again.
Snap peas are a recent phenomenon. They were first grown in 1952, but did not reach the market until 1979. There were earlier versions of the snap pea, so some people will argue they are more ancient. But the origins of the version we find today are fully traceable.
Like all peas, snap peas are from the Fabaceae (legume) family. That is great in our gardens because that means they are nitrogen fixing. They host bacteria on their roots that draw nitrogen from the air and deliver it to the root system.
How to Grow Snap Peas
To grow snap peas you will want some kind of support sysem. They are not heavy plants, so a lightweight support will do. They are very good at attaching themselves to things, and to each other.
Bamboo sticks work great for this. If you are growing a lot, you might find it more convenient to set up a net or a teepee. In the course of a season they can grow very tall, so you want t a structure that is at least 4 feet tall.
Sow the seeds about an inch deep and a couple of inches apart. Make sure they receive full sun, plenty of water and have well draining soil. Add some compost as mulch to give them a healthy start and protect them against weeds.
In California we get a really long growing season for snap peas. They can survive some frost, but colder parts of the country will eventually lose them when winter takes over.
It's a good idea to succession plant peas about every month. You can start planting them as soon as the weather starts to cool, and continue through February. You may have some trouble in December depending on the weather that year.
Harvest snow peas as soon as they are a good size, about three inches and plump. If you leave the pods on the vine, the vine will stop producing.
They also taste and have the best texture when young. You will have plenty of opportunity to experiment to find the right sweetspot on when to pick them.