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Growing Good Food at Home

Types of Pea Plants

Peas in their pod.

Peas in their pod.

Peas come in three main types: English, snow peas, and sugar snap. English peas, also known as shelling or garden peas (Pisum sativum ssp. sativum), produce inedible pods from which large, edible peas are harvested.

Snow peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon) produce edible flat pods with very small seeds inside.

Snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon ser. cv.), also known as sugar snap, are a cross between English and snow peas, producing tender, edible pods with full-size peas.

English peas

English peas

English peas are the most common type of peas. Their curved, cylindrical pods are fibrous and tough, but they contain plump, round, sweet peas. English peas must be shelled, releasing the emerald orbs for eating. The extra work is worth it, as pre-shelled grocery store peas do not compare to those fresh from your garden. Popular varieties of English peas include Wando, Garden Sweet, and Early Perfection.

Snow peas

Snow peas

Snow peas are flat with tiny pea seeds inside. In fact, snow peas are grown for their edible pods rather than the seeds. Snow peas are often referred to as Chinese peas because they’re featured in Chinese cuisine. In French, they’re called mangetout, which means “to eat it all.” And it’s true—you can eat snow peas right off the vine. Popular snow pea varieties include Snowbird, Sugar Daddy, and Avalanche.

Sugar snap peas

Sugar snap peas

Sugar snap peas resemble English peas, but their pods are slightly more cylindrical than garden peas. Sugar snap peas can be eaten pod and all, without shelling. The pods are thick, sweet, and crunchy. Sugar snap peas are a hybrid of snow peas and a mutant garden pea. This type of pea is also more tolerant of hot weather than garden peas. Favorite sugar snap peas include Cascadia, Sugar Ann, and Super Sugar Snap.

Have you tried growing all three types of peas? What challenges have you faced with growing peas? Which type do you prefer to eat? Please share your opinion.

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