About a decade ago, snap peas—the now well-known ‘Sugar Snap’ was the first—made big news. A brand new vegetable, snap peas combined the fibreless pods of snow peas with plump, sweet peas inside. A great treat right off the vine, snap peas are as close to candy as you can grow. Cultivars such as ‘Sugar Ann’, ‘Sugar Sprint’ and ‘Sugar Daddy’ reach one metre and are grown like shelling peas; ‘Sugar Snap’, still one of the tastiest, climbs up and up to two metres.
A ‘Sugar Snap’ teepee will delight children: a leafy hideaway dangling with sweet pods. Push five or more long, stout bamboo poles (or the equivalent) as deeply as possible into prepared ground in a circle, leaving a gap for a doorway. Fasten the poles tightly with string where they intersect near the top. Drape the frame with nylon netting, or encircle and criss-cross it with strong string or raffia, looped and knotted in place. A couple of weeks before your last frost date, plant a circle of ‘Sugar Snap’ pea seeds around the outer edge. Mulch inside the teepee with grass clippings, straw, or, for a drier surface, wood or bark chips. Steer young vines toward the support. Kids will enjoy watching this plant scramble up the teepee, but may need a hand—or a lift—to pick the peas.
Snow pea plants produce large quantities of flat pods, excellent for stir-fries, salads or raw vegetable platters. They are so easily cultivated that even a first-time food grower is bound to have encouraging results. Look for cultivars such as ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’, ‘Little Sweetie’ or ‘Oregon Giant’ with broad, tender pods. You might get away with not supporting snow peas; yes, they’ll tangle, but pods are plentiful and easy to find. A nice crop of snow peas—or shorter varieties of snap peas—can be grown in a half barrel set in a sunny place and filled with a light soil mix. Poke pea seeds in up to your first knuckle at five-centimetre intervals. Push in enough sticks of pea brush to form a weave of twiggy branches. All that’s left to do is watering—and, of course, picking peas when they’re ready.