Facts about peas:

• Peas are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, thiamine (B1), iron and phosphorus.

• They are rich in protein, carbohydrate and fiber and low in fat.

• Half a cup of frozen peas has only 5% of the daily value for sodium and foods low in sodium are good for your heart.

• An 85 gram serving of peas, cooked, provides 50 calories, 4 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbohydrate (of which 3.5 grams are sugars), 3.8 grams of fiber, 17mg of vitamin C (28% of the recommended daily allowance) and 0.2mg Thiamine (B1) (15% of the recommended daily allowance).

• A 100 calories serving of peas contains more protein than a whole egg or tablespoon of peanut butter.

Peas are one of the most cold tolerant plants grown in Kansas gardens. They can be planted about as early as soil can be prepared in the spring. Most varieties produce pods and the seeds need to be shelled. Several newer varieties produce thick fleshy pods and the pods, as well as the seeds, can be eaten. In addition, some oriental types produce tender, thin-pods which are used alone. Southern peas or cowpeas are an entirely different crop and are grown in much the same way as beans.

There are many varieties of peas to plant. Standard varieties include Little Marvel, Green Arrow, Frosty, Knight, Sparkle, and Burpeeana. Edible-podded types include Sugar Ann, Sugar Bon, and Sugar Snap. Oriental thin-podded types, often called snow peas, include Dwarf Grey Sugar and Mammoth Sugar.

Plant seed in early to mid-March when soil is dry enough to work. Peas will germinate when soil conditions are favorable. Peas are not well adapted for fall gardens because seed usually fails to germinate well in warm soil. Plant seed 2-4 inches apart with rows 12 inches apart. Peas usually do best where 2-3 rows can be planted 4-6 inches apart to allow the weak spindly vines to support each other.

Peas prefer cool soil and need water during stress periods. They grow best in moderate to well-fertilized soil. A trellis may be needed to support the flimsy vines; short wire mesh or string trellis works well.

Harvest when the pods are swollen so that seeds within are full sized but tender, pick and shell the peas from the pods. Edible-podded types should be picked and used immediately after harvest as they tend to dry out readily. Harvest oriental types when the pods are crisp and tender but before the seeds begin to enlarge significantly. Store peas in a refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to a week. Peas are easily frozen for later use.

— Scott Eckert is a Kansas State Research and Extension Agent for Harvey County. Horticulture is his specialty. The Harvey County Extension Office can be contacted at 284-6930.