Dr. Calvin Lamborn was just out of graduate school when Gallatin Valley Seed Co. hired him as a breeder. Working with Dr. M. C. Parker, Lamborn set out to solve several problems associated with edible pod peas–primarily the twisting, buckling and distortion of the pods.
Modern sugarsnaps owe their existence to a serendipitous find in 1952 and to Dr. Lamborn’s curiosity. In the course of their work together Dr. Parker showed Lamborn a tight-podded rogue that he had discovered seventeen years earlier. Curious as to why the pod of this pea was so tight, Lamborn sliced it open and noticed that its walls were much thicker than those of other pod peas. Then he decided to cross this rogue with a snow pea, hoping the thick wall might counteract the twisting and buckling of the snow pea. From this first cross came an entirely new class of edible podded peas, with plump pods, thick walls and delicious sweetness at full maturity.
Well, not entirely new. Snap peas were around in the 19th century. At least two other companies had tried unsuccessfully to reintroduce them as “butterpeas” in the 20th century.
This time the #892 Sugarsnap was awarded a gold medal by the AAS Committee in 1979, becoming a smash success. Lamborn put Gallatin Valley on the home garden map. He went on to produce # 860 AAS Sugar Ann, Sugar Bon, Sugar Mel and Sugar Rae, dwarf varieties with more disease resistance, though less taste than Sugarsnap. In 1991 Lamborn won a third AAS with his Kentucky Blue Pole Bean, a cross between Kentucky Wonder and Bush Blue Lake.