Department of Horticulture New York State Horticulture Study Guide for Youth 4-H Logo


Flowers &
Indoor Plants

Fruits & Nuts



Special Topics



Cornell University

Pisum sativum
(pee-sum sah-tee-vum)

Click on thumbnails for larger image.

What about it?

Peas are in the legume family. They are therefore related to snap beans, soybeans, lima beans, chick peas, and peanuts. The pea plant is a vine.

What is it used for?

The flowers of the plant, once pollinated, become the fruit; the pea pod holds these fruits. There are several kinds of peas: the garden pea, the edible-podded peas, and the snap peas. The garden pea is the sweetest kind, but the pods are inedible. Snowpea is another name for the edible-podded variety. The name comes from China where growers say this type won't be bothered by a light snow. Finally, the snap pea is the best of both worlds with a crunchy, tasty pod and sweet, full-sized peas inside.

Where does it grow? How do we grow it?

Peas can be planted in the early spring. Put them in a well-drained spot or in raised bed. Peas will need a trellis for support.

What are its primary problems?

Watch out for the pea aphids and slugs. Also, peas can get damping off and root rot, powdery mildew, and bacterial blight. Seed that is treated with a fungicide may help get the peas off to a good start. Use gloves when handling treated seeds!

How do we propagate it?

Begin your pea plants from seeds. These can be planted directly into the soil. If early in the season, only place the seeds 1 inch into the soil to prevent the seeds from rotting before sprouting. You may want to pre-sprout your peas and plant in a small trench.

How do we harvest and store it?

Use your fingernail to pinch pods off the vine. Leave some of the stem with the pod. Pick the peas when the pods are well rounded. Don't wait until they have hardened or changed colors. Snowpeas are harvested when the peas inside are not yet developed Pick peas every day, in the early morning when the pods are crisp.

Peas begin to convert their sugars to starches immediately after harvest. Storing in ice water or a refrigerator is necessary.

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Copyright, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University.