Snow and Snap Peas


Botanical name:

Pisum sativum var. saccharatum (Snow pea), Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon (Snap pea)


Both snow peas and sugar snaps are cultivars of the podded pea. They are members of the legume family. The sugar snap offer a more rounded  4 cm pod, the snow pea a 6 cm flat pod. If the pods are harvested in an unripe state they haven’t developed any fibers yet, so they can be eaten as a whole. The French call them both mangetout which literally means ‘eat the lot’. Both can be eaten raw. In China the young shoots of both are considered a delicacy.

Peas are a cool season plant, but these varieties tolerate higher temperatures. They grow in vines to about 1.5 m high and need a support structure. The leaves show a light green with some grey patterns and oval shaped. The plant uses tendrils to attach to a trellis and climb. Peas are pollinated by insects.

Peas fix nitrogen, so they don’t need much fertiliser. The roots show plenty of nodules where the plant hosts the nitrogen fixing bacteria it lives in symbiosis with.

How to grow:

Peas need a trellis to climb, that is about 1.5 high and offers some 10 cm wide wire mesh for the tendrils to attach to.

Sow 3 to 4 cm deep deep directly into a light, well drained soil. Peas love a sunny spot with at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight per day but do also well in light shade. Put the seeds in 10 cm apart in rows 20 cm apart.  Seedlings appear after 10 to 14 days.

Snow peas and sugar snaps need to be picked frequently to encourage more flowers and fruit.

Doesn’t need much fertilising.

12 to 14 weeks to harvest.

Growing in the neighbourhood:

Companions are carrot, radish, corn, beans, lettuce, endives and fennel. Doesn’t like to have tomatoes, onion, chives and garlic in the same bed.

Pests and other problems and how we deal with them:

Weak pea plants are often affected by aphids and by powdery mildew. We use a soap spray and white oil against aphids. Early onset of mildew can be easily contained with a milk spray.


Autumn to early Spring


Peas cross pollinate with other plants of the legume family. In order to collect useful seeds the mother-plant would need to be kept isolated.

How to harvest and use:

Harvest peas when they are 4 cm (sugar snaps) or 6 cm (snow peas) long and tender. Both snow peas and sugar snaps can be eaten raw. They have a crisp texture and a sweet, typical pea flavour and should be cooked very briefly to maintain their crunch.

Snow peas are a common ingredient of Asian stir fries. They are great to offer some freshness and crunch to rich dishes like stews, soups and curries.  Both are a very versatile vegetable that marries well seafood, nuts, citrus, soy sauce, and butter.