The snap pea, which other people call sugar snap pea, is an edible-pod pea. There was a time when snap pea was also called butter pea, but it was lost in cultivation sometime in the 20th century. What we have as snap pea right now is a result of crossing a shelling pea mutant (which Dr. M.C. Parker found in 1952) and a snow pea cultivar. This was the work of renowned plant breeder Dr. Calvin Lamborn. This first new snap pea was released in 1979. They called it sugar snap.
Snap pea is a pod fruit. Consistent with the characteristic of an edible-podded pea, the pod of a snap pea does not have a membrane and does not open when ripe. A mature snap pea can grow from 4 up to 8 centimeters. A snap pea pod typically contains three to eight peas. For a snap pea plant to achieve optimal growth, it is important to set up a trellis because this is a climbing plant that can climb up to as high as 6 feet which it will do with the help of a support system. To make harvest easy, it is best to limit the height of the trellis to 3 to 4 feet.
A good way to identify a particular kind of pea is to establish the characteristics that make it different from other peas. In the case of snap peas, one way to differentiate them from snow peas is the characteristic of the pods. Snap peas have rounded pods and thick pod walls, whereas snow peas have pods that are flat with thin walls (although both are what the French call mangetout or “eat all” since you can eat both the pods and the pea). Snap peas and English peas are similar in appearance, having the same plump pods.
Species: P. sativum
Cultivar group: Macrocarpon Group
Snap Peas Trivia
- Dr. Calvin Lamborn is known as the Father of the Snap Pea. He passed away in 2017.
- There are many cultivars of snap peas available today, including heirloom cultivars and All America Selection (AAS) winners.
Snap Peas Buying Guide
When buying snap peas in the market, make sure you do not confuse snap peas with edamame. Both are from the legume family, but with edamame, you only eat the beans found inside the pod, whereas a snap pea’s pod and beans are both edible. Another thing that differentiates edamame from snap peas is taste. Edamame is bitter, while snap peas are sweet. They may look the same at first glance, so make sure to read the packaging to see if you are holding edamame or snap peas. Be warned: snap peas are expensive. This is because snap peas do not travel well, and handling and transporting these with care to locations far from the source come with a cost that reflects on the price of snap peas sold in the frozen section. When buying snap peas in Texas, know that most of what is sold here came from California. This is important to know because if ever there crop-related issues in California, consider not buying snap peas until this problem has passed.
When buying snap peas with the intention of planting in Texas, consider these varieties recommended by Texas A&M:
- Cascadia (60 days from planting to maturity)
- Premium (51 days)
- Sugar Ann (60 days)
- Sugar Bob (55 days)
- Super Sugar Snap (65 days)
Snap Peas Production & Farming in Texas
The ideal planting of snap pea is during the spring. As a cool-season legume, snap peas can tolerate light frost even as a young plant. Snap peas require 4 to 6 hours of sunlight each day. The ideal soil to use for growing snap peas is a fertile, sandy loam that drains well. Other types of soil can be used as long as it is not impermeable clay with a 6.0 to 7.5 pH level. For soil that is acidic, the remedy is possible with the use of dolomite or agricultural lime. Snap peas can experience optimal growth in the U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness Zone 8. In Texas, places that fall under Zone 8 include Dallas, Waco, Bryan College Station, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.
According to an article from Texas AgriLife Extension Service, snap peas and other edible-podded peas are not grown commercially in Texas on the account of the state’s generally hot and windy conditions that compromises the ability of open fields and vegetable farms to produce and grow consistently.
Peas like snap peas are prone to plant diseases including Asocochyta blight, bacterial blight, root rot, damping off, downy and powdery mildew, and fusarium wilt. Pests that attack snap peas include aphids, pea weevils, leaf miners, spider mites, and thrips.
Kills aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
Kill leafminers using spinosad, a mixture of two chemicals called spinosyn A and spinosyn D typically used to control a wide variety of pests.
To get rid of spider mites, use neem oil and apply it through foliar spraying. It contains azadirachtin which is effective against spider mites. You can also use horticultural oil (which also targets aphids and thrips). Pests die after exposure to horticultural oil due to suffocation since the oil blocks the spiracles through which insects breathe. Another effect of horticultural oils is disrupting the metabolism of insect eggs. Lastly, horticultural oils disrupt the insect’s ability to feed. As a result, the insect starves to death. Using pyrethrin spray is also an effective method against spider mites. Another option is spinosad.
To kill thrips, there is a wide array of options to choose from: horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, anti-parasite spray spinosad, or pyrethrin pesticides with piperonyl butoxide.
Pesticide sprays like Carbaryl and Sevin are useful in eliminating pea weevils.
Snap peas are produced in different parts of the world, from Colombia and Peru in South America to Kenya in Africa to China in Asia.
Snap peas are sold in markets in plastic packaging. Read the details including best before or expiration information, Inspect the packaging for potential damage or tampering or any indication that the product’s quality and integrity has been damaged or compromised. Most packaging has a transparent part that allows buyers to inspect the snap peas inside the packaging. See if the snap peas inside are in good condition.
Enjoying Snap Peas
Snap peas are tender and taste sweet. Unlike other peas, you can eat snap peas without having to shell them. You can eat it cooked or raw as an ingredient used in salad. The best time to eat snap peas is when they are crisp, tender, and plump, with little or no string along the suture. Wilted pods are not ideal for eating since these have turned tough to chew and have lost their sweetness and crispy quality.
Snap peas can be stored for up to two weeks in a refrigerator. Before storing them, make sure to wash them and place them in a clean plastic bag. If you notice any discoloration or foul smell, discard it and do not eat it.
Some of the common ways of cooking snap peas include steaming and blanching in boiling water. Others cook snap peas by stir fry. When cooking snap peas, remember that these do not require a long time of cooking. Usually, one to two minutes of cooking is enough. Snap peas go well with fresh mushrooms or water chestnuts. You can eat snap peas as a snack or as a side dish. You can use it when cooking soups or noodles. Stir fry it, or use it when making pasta dishes.
Eating snap peas is good for your bones because it contains vitamin K. Snap peas also provide the body with vitamin C, B complex, iron, and beta-carotene. If you are dieting, eating snap peas will help you make full, thanks to their fiber content.