Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Your All Purpose Guide on How to Grow Zipper Peas/Cream Crowder Peas

In spite of my incredible fondness for Zipper peas/Creme crowder peas, I've come to realize they may not be the best crop for the small scale square foot gardener, much to my chagrin.

I was amazingly luck enough today to be able to sit down with my neighbor's mother to discuss the planting of zipper peas and have her look at mine to let me know how I was doing. It was she that sent her son home with bags of zipper peas of which I shared in the glorious, scrumptious bounty.

Of course, now I've become obsessed.

I approached her, literally, with my notebook of questions and she very serenely answered all. She's a quiet, unassuming woman and her advice was more than appreciated. Thanks, MeMaw (or so her grandson calls her, so it's good enough for me)!

MeMaw plants six double rows of 200 ft or more and gets a good harvest. If I'm lucky, I may get one serving from my plants in the SFG. It makes me wonder if it's worth it or if I should just free-load off of her. ;)

Here's what she told me:

Zipper peas are a summer crop and need to be planted around four weeks after the last frost date. They, like peppers and tomatoes, need warmer weather to produce well. They surprisingly tolerate a lot of heat, but frost is a killer.

They produce more than one crop, but if you'd like to extend the harvest, or when you see one batch isn't producing anymore, she recommends a second crop. Perhaps one in the late spring and another late summer, but early enough to mature before the frost (about 70 days). Sometimes they can vine and root along the stem, but it's not a given.

She says the germination rate isn't as low as I would have assumed and the squirrels are eating most of my seeds. She's convinced that's my problem with the devoured beets and radishes. (Actually, today I found one completely ripped from the garden, bulb and all.) The pink coating on my seed is to help the seed last longer. You don't presoak the seed, for as I've noticed, the pink covering soaks up the water and then the peas rot. Plant them straight in the ground. Full sun is good, but they tolerate partial shade.

Pick the pods when the seeds are bulging like knuckles and right as the pods turn a bit yellow. They're easier to shell that way. When you're ready to cook them, pick some of the smaller ones as well and use some of the snaps for texture.

Not ready:

Almost ready:

Blanche them and then freeze. My problem is that I'll never have enough at one time to blanch. I'm experimenting with freezing them from the pod.

Cook them just until tender in water to cover with either bullion or bacon, either fried or uncooked, and season with garlic salt and pepper to taste.

I'm very, very hopeful that the time will come this fall when I have enough for at least a side dish. With my limited space, even if I devote my full bed to them, I'll never get a good harvest to warrant much. I found a pick your own place for zipper peas on Craig's list earlier this year. Looks like I'll be on the look-out for it next year.

For as much as I love them, I may have to cut my losses depending on how these do. It's an awful waste of space to plant something and not get a harvest out of it that's worth its weight. It's similar to the sweet potatoes that have been taking up space all year and not paying rent. It's a dilemma to say the least.

But they sure are good eatin'.

The morning comes early. Sweet Gardening dreams.


  1. Oh, that is difficult. Maybe you could find a neighbor with a big spot just for them? You could pay rent in peas?

    I struggle with limits -- space, time, soil condition, compost. . . human condition I suppose.

    At least you have someone to freeload off of?

  2. Thanks for the great post, very informative! I have found the same thing with corn... in order to pollinate well and get a decent harvest, one needs to plant many long rows, so I leave these to the local farmers to do for me!

  3. I agree with Stefaneener, maybe you can find a larger plot elsewhere to grow your patch? I have given thought to doing that for dried beans and corn. I need far greater space to actually grow enough to preserve.

  4. Now I have to leave another one . . . I dreamed of zipper peas last night. Apparently in my dream, they only grow in shade, and they glow. Makes it easier to find places to grow them, apparently.

    I need to find things to dream about.