Category Archives: Peas: From Seed to Table

Tips to get the most from your pea and bean crop.

Growing Your Pea Garden Upside Down

If you have limited garden space or just want to try something new, growing your pea garden upside down can be a fun thing to try. Upside down container gardens not only enhance the beauty of your home, they serve many practical purposes as well. By letting roots grow in a hanging bucket filled with dirt, your bean plants can remain completely undisturbed by pests and weeds. Many gardeners have found that plants grown upside down actually end up producing more fruit than the same varieties grown on the ground.

peaplant

Peas are cool-weather annuals meaning that they can be planted and grown throughout mild cold weather. When your plants are about 3″ tall, transplant into your upside down planter. Water as needed. Peas don’t like heat, so let your upside planter work double duty. Plant herbs or annual flowers that crave full sun in the soil on top of your planter. This will provide your peas with shade and reduce moisture loss. Also, plant your pea garden in lighter color planters. Dark planters will absorb the heat and could cause your pea plants to grow and produce poorly.Beans

Due to the increasing popularity of planting upside down, you can find affordable upside down planters for sale at most major supermarkets. If you’d rather get creative and make your own, they are very easy to construct. Depending on the size you prefer, you can use everything from five-gallon plastic buckets to soda bottles. In this article from the New York Times, you can read more about growing peas upside down as well as the benefits of upside down gardening.

How To Make a Five-Gallon Bucket Pea Planter

1. Cut a small hole in the bottom of the bucket.
2. Place a baby pea plant through the hole and secure it in place with strips of newspaper.
3. Fill the bucket with a healthy soil and compost blend.
4. Tie ropes to the top of your bucket planter and hang it from your porch.

When your peas are ready for harvest, I recommend the Mr. Pea Sheller.

Mr. Pea Sheller

Mr. Pea Sheller

Compact and easily fit to most counter tops, this hand crank bean sheller will save your time and thumbs. You can check out my review as well.

~ Kerry Clabaugh

Freezing Your Peas

 

There is nothing quite as good as the sweet flavor of fresh peas straight from the garden. You can enjoy that same fresh taste year round by freezing them after they have been harvested. To retain the fresh flavor and tenderness, peas should be processed as soon as possible after they have been picked. Generally, a fresh bean should pop from the pod by twisting. Peas that are slimy or limp are too old to freeze. They will be rubbery and tasteless. If it is not possible to process the peas immediately after picking them, shelled peas can be put into the refrigerator or kept on ice for a few days. Peas in the pod do not deteriorate as quickly and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Choosing the right peas also plays an important part in successful preparation. Pick out and discard any peas that are hard, slimy, or discolored. I find that the smaller the pea, the more tender and flavorful they are after freezing. Peas that are picked after maturity grow larger and have a tendency to become hard and bitter. Being choosy will yield much better results and tastier food.peaplant

Once peas have been shelled, wash them to remove any dirt or debris on them. This can easily be accomplished by using a colander. Place the peas into the colander and run cold water over them, gently stirring with your hands until they are clean.

 

The Blanching Process

 

Because peas are very high in natural sugar, they must be blanched before freezing. Blanching will prevent enzymes from turning the sugar into starch and spoiling the taste. Blanching is the process of heating them up quickly, which kills bacteria and stops enzyme production. This process also allows the peas to retain their color and nutrients. Peas that have been blanched can be frozen for 9 to 12 months before eating. Although it is not recommended, it is possible to freeze peas without blanching but they must be used within 4 weeks after freezing.

 

1. Fill a large pot with 1 gallon of water and bring to a rapid boil.
2.Place 1 pound of washed peas in a wire basket with handle and immerse basket in the boiling water and wait for the water to return to a boil.
3. Boil peas for 2 minutes.
4. Remove wire basket from the boiling water and immerse basket into a large container of water and ice for about 5 minutes. This will stop the cooking process.
5. Drain peas to remove as much moisture as possible.
6. Pack peas tightly into thick freezer bags or plastic freezing container. Remove as much air as possible.
7. Label each bag with the “type of pea” and “date of preparation”.
8. Freeze quickly to retain flavor and nutrients.
9. Enjoy.

Pea HeartNutritional Value

Besides being delicious, peas are an excellent source of nutrition. Nutrients found in a serving of peas include iron, fiber, calcium, protein, vitamins A and C, and digestive aids such as riboflavin.

If processed correctly, your peas will be hard to tell from fresh picked ones and their tender flavor can be enjoyed all winter.

 

If you need a helping hand while shelling your peas, I highly recommend the Taylor Bean Sheller machine. The Taylor Little Sheller can shell 3-4 bushels an hour. The Taylor Mini Sheller machine is about ⅔ the size of the Little Sheller, but is perfect for beginners or home gardens. You can also check out my review of the Taylor Little Sheller.

~Kerry Clabaugh

Why You Should Grow Peas

 

Garden peas are a delightfully delicious member of the legume family and one of the oldest vegetables in the world.  Peas are tasty whether eaten raw, cooked, in stir- fry, or in salads.  There are several varieties of peas including the shell pea, the snap pea, and the snow pea.  Each of these has it’s own special characteristics, but all share the sweet taste known to the pea. Peas have gained popularity as a health food in recent years.  Raw peas are eaten as snacks in lunches or put into fresh salads.  Green garden peas are a source of protein and iron.  They also have insoluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol, reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack.  Although snap peas and snow peas contain less protein than green garden peas, they are high in iron and contain vitamin C which boost the immune system.

English, Snap, or Snow… Which will you plant?

pea-pod-382293_1280The shell pea, also known as the English pea or garden pea, refers to a group of peas that grow in a pod.  These pods must be opened to release the peas for cooking and eating. Opening and removing these peas from the pod is referred to as “shelling”, hence the name shell peas.   Many people enjoy these peas raw straight out of the shell. The pods are inedible.  Shell peas are a cool weather plant and can be planted before the last frost.  Generally, the soil should be at least 45° F and not wet or muddy.  Shell peas can be bushing or vining with wrinkled or smooth seeds depending on the variety.  The wrinkled seed variety tend to be sweeter and are preferred for home use while the smooth seed kind contain more starch. The peas should be picked while tender and rounded in the pod, yet still immature.  The pods in the lower portion of the plant mature the earliest.  As the peas mature they become hard and starchy.   Processing these peas immediately after picking  produces the best flavor since their quality and sweetness begins to deteriorate as soon as they have been picked.   There are many pea shellers on the market today ranging from manual hand crank shellers to electric sheller models.  Consider using one of these if you have a large yield of peas.  This will lessen the time from the vine to the freezer and preserve the sweetness of the pea.

Another form of pea is the snap pea.  This pea is a favorite because it takes so little to prepare them.  The snap pea has a low fiber pod that can be snapped and eaten along with the immature peas inside.  They are delicious eaten raw or cooked, although some varieties have strings that must be removed before cooking.  These should be picked as the peas begin to plump in the pod, but before they mature completely.  As the snap pea matures, the pod becomes higher in fiber making it tough and inedible.   Like the shell pea, the snap pea is a cool weather vegetable.  It can be planted earlier in the season than most other garden vegetables.  In fact, early plantings usually produce a higher yield than later plantings.  The snap pea should be harvested every 1-3 days.  This will assure that the plant keeps producing peas.  If the peas are not harvested regularly, the plant will stop producing.

A form of pea that has recently reached popularity in the United States is the snow pea.  The snow pea is small and grows in a flat pod.  It is commonly used in Asian cooking and looks much like the shell of a butter bean.  Snow peas are sweet and tender and both the shell and the peas are edible.  They are delicious in a stir-fry dish or a salad.  Like other peas, they are also planted in the cool weather with soil of about 45°.  After germination, they will produce in about 60 days.  Snow peas must be picked at least every other day.  If they are allowed to get plump, the pod must be discarded.  Fiber begins to build up in the pod as it matures, making it tough and inedible.  Snow peas are harvested when they have grown full length but are still flat.  This is usually 5-7 days after flowering.  Remove fiber, stems, and blossom ends during preparation.  Unlike other peas, snow pea pods do not deteriorate quickly.  They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  Pea pods loose their crispness during cooking and since they are high in sugar content, they brown quickly.  When using them in a stir-fry recipe, be sure that the heat is not too intense.pea-plant1200

Fresh is Best

To help spend up my pea picking…and save my back… I use a 5 gallon picking bag. All peas are better when prepared immediately after harvesting.  To get the full flavor of any pea, they should be cooked fresh from the garden. Unfortunately, this is not always possible with larger gardens.  Peas freeze nicely, losing very little of their original sweetness if done promptly and correctly.  They can be stored for a couple of days in the refrigerator until there is time to freeze them. Shelling peas by hand can seriously wear your thumbs out. I really like my Taylor Pea Shellers. The investment has not been one that was regretted. If you just have a small garden, then a hand crank pea sheller might be better for you.

Blanching

The blanching method is the best way to freeze peas, although some people freeze them fresh without any preparation.  Blanching is the process of heating the peas up in order to kill bacteria and stop enzyme production.  Since peas are high in sugar content, enzyme production will cause the sugars to turn to starch.  To blanch peas, they should be placed in boiling water for about 2 minutes, removed, and plunged into cold ice water for about 5 minutes.  This stops the cooking process.  Drain the peas, pack them into labeled freezer bags, and freeze them quickly.  Blanched peas will keep in the freezer for 9-12 months.  It is recommended that un-blanched, fresh frozen peas should be eaten within four weeks of freezing.  Frozen peas do not have to be cooked after thawing.  They can be added to soups, stews, and salads or simply heated briefly before serving.

hand-271756_1280Peas For Your Health

Peas are a superior vegetable.  They are easily grown, have large yields, are relatively easy to preserve, are an ingredient in an assortment of foods, provide nutrition, and have an excellent sweet taste that can be enjoyed all year.  What vegetable could be more perfect than that?

So tell me, will you grow peas in your garden?

~Kerry Clabaugh