Here in northern USA we consider ourselves lucky that we have two pea growing seasons, plenty of time to plant both in early spring and again in late summer.
Which kind of pea(s) any gardener plants is a matter of preference, but the different types are often confused with one another:
1. Snow Peas
Known for their curved appearance, snow peas are best harvested when they are young. You cannot pick a snow pea too small, if you can see it you can eat it pod and all; and right off the vine, for that matter.
Most snow peas suffer in their texture if they become over ripe. They make for better eating, less ‘woody’ as my husband says, when picked small before the seeds inside begin to develop.
2. Snap or Sugar Snap Peas
Snap peas are similar in appearance to snow peas when they are young and are often confused for snow peas. In this case you want to actually let the pea seeds inside develop before you harvest. ‘Snap’ the top part of the pod, and pull any string off that comes out in the process.
Again you can enjoy pod and all.
3. Shell Peas
Also referred to simply as Garden Peas, this is your basic green pea. The pods are harvested after they get quite plump, are opened and the seeds inside is what is enjoyed fresh or steamed. The pods of shell peas are usually more elongated and have less of a curve to them.
Here in the Jones’ garden you will find a few different colors of snow peas in the spring, and a wee bit of snap and shell peas.
By fall we are pretty much fresh pea’d out, so only will grow and harvest shell peas for preserving.