Peas and Mint: A Perfect Pair in Your Kitchen and Garden

Undemanding in the garden, peas and mint will command attention in the kitchen. Learn how to grow mint and peas, and then invite them to your table by trying these fresh spring pea recipes and mint recipes.

| June/July 2016

In Colonial times, “peas by the king’s birthday” (that would be King George III’s birthday, on June 4) was considered the mark of a good gardener. Indeed, an early pea harvest is a worthy goal. Tender, fresh spring peas represent the start of the fruiting season after a diet of winter roots. Northern gardeners can hope to celebrate it with fireworks on July 4, and the date advances accordingly as you move south.

I’m talking about ordinary garden peas, also referred to as “green peas,” or “English peas” if you must. Much as I love the edible pod types, such as snow peas or sugar snaps, there’s nothing quite like zipping open a newly filled pod and popping that luscious little green row into your mouth. I snack on them raw, standing right in the garden, and then steam and butter them for dinner. After a while, I like to vary their use. When looking around for a worthy companion, I found that mint is a great choice because it’s abundant in early summer, too. Many of the dishes I make pair peas and mint.

Grow Fresh Spring Peas

To get early peas, you need to sow them as soon as the soil can be worked in spring. Because wet spring soil can be impossible to work, it pays to prepare a compost-enriched bed with pre-formed furrows in fall. That way, you can just drop in the peas, cover them with about an inch of soil, water lightly, and up they’ll come.

Peas will need support unless they’re short-vined bush types. In our garden, we make two parallel furrows, between which we erect a trellis made of wood or metal pipes covered with some form of netting the peas can climb. We’ve used netting made of nylon, plastic mesh, and even plain old chicken wire. All of them work fine.

Both weeding and thinning can damage a pea plant’s root system. Be sure to space the seeds carefully, 1 to 2 inches apart, so you needn’t thin the plants later. Mulching with straw is best for controlling weeds, but grass clippings can also make good mulch for peas — just don’t apply the clippings too thickly all at once, or they’ll smell rotten and sour as they break down. The clippings will thin out as they dry, so just add a bit more every time you mow your lush, green summer lawn.

Peas need consistent moisture, especially when pods are forming, so irrigate them when it doesn’t rain.

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