keywords: howtogrow Sugar Snap Peas, alias Pisum sativum saccharatum
location: Chicago, Illinois, Zone5
If you haven't tried sugar snap peas run right out and get some, you'll only find them in the frozen food section of the supermarket. Then realize that if you grow them yourself they're even better! The trouble is there is a trick to getting them started.
If you simply stick the seeds in the ground as per directions maybe about 15% will come up while the rest rot away. So you need to make a special effort to get them started. You need to start them in a fairly sterile environment, so do something like the following. Get a plastic plate or something similar and put wet paper towels on it, cut off the excess paper that extends beyond the plate. Scatter seeds on the paper towel and cover the plate with plastic wrap to hold in the moisture. I punch a few holes in the plastic to produce some air circulation, maybe this step is unnecessary. Keep the paper towels moist and in a not too hot spot. After several days the seeds will start sprouting and you can plant them an inch or two deep. The sprouting goes on so quickly that you should check and plant in the morning and evening. Using this procedure you will get about an 85% germination rate.
There are many varieties of sugar snap peas available most of which require trellises or netting to support the peas. The Sugar Ann variety stays relatively small and don't need support so I chose to work with them. A new variety I found in the Park's catalog is Sugar Lace, it gets much bigger but they say it doesn't need support, I'm trying them this year.
With the Sugar Ann at least I've found that a few plants produce most of the seed pods while many others end up producing little or none. Plants are spindly so the seeds can be planted very closely together, on the order of two inches within a row and rows can be around 8 inches apart. Sugar Ann does not need staking however you may want to run a string down each row to help keep them in place. Pods can be harvested when they are relatively full (unlike snow peas where you want the pods relatively empty). If you save pods in the refrigerator for even a day they lose their crispness so they are best cooked right away. I stick them in a pot of water, bring it to a boil and then let it boil 2-3 minutes. Boil too long and they will lose some crispness and maybe some flavor as well.