Pisum sativum (56 days) Open-pollinated. Those who grew up during the heyday of our national pastime associate the name with bubble gum and baseball cards. We’re talking peas, not hardball here, but whether as growers or as batters, we prefer Topps to a called Strike. In our 2010 trial, in a very warm dry spring in Zone 5, Topps bested both Strike and Premium with 5.42 peas per pod. In the more hospitable 2015 season one zone north, Topps, given ample rainfall in late spring, notched about 5–7 peas per pod. Not bad for a short vine (22–23") that bursts onto the second early scene with a concentrated set of very dark blunt 3½" pods. In Central Maine second early meant July 10 ripeness, whereas in West Tisbury, Mass., Tom Hodgson and Christine Gault shelled their first Topps on June 8 and won a First Peas contest. Production is ample but brief; within a week the plants are all picked out. As for the flavor? “Makes your mouth water for more,” said one taster. Others compared it closely with Early Frosty except Topps is easier to tell maturity and to shell. You can keep the bubble gum, we’ll take the peas! Resists F1. ⑥
Log in to start or resume an order
2 oz packet sows 25 ft; 1 lb, 200 ft. Avg 160 seeds/2 oz pkt.
All peas are open-pollinated.
Days to maturity are from direct seeding.
Culture: Sow as early as ground can be worked for best yields. Minimum soil temperature for pea seed germination: 40°. Optimal range 50–75°. Peas are legumes with moderate fertility requirements. Avoid excess nitrogen: they can fix their own. Use Legume Inoculant at planting. They prefer cool, moist weather and dislike dry heat. All peas produce more when staked; varieties over 2½' must be supported. Use either Trellis Netting or chicken wire. Install support at planting time to avoid disturbing seedlings. Plant 8–10 seeds/ft on each side of supports in double rows. Set supports for rows 3' apart (5' if very tall varieties).
Young plants are very hardy but frost stops production at the blossom or pod stage. If you love peas as much as we do, try for a second crop in the fall. Timing is crucial, as peas ripen slowly in the cool of September, and frost will halt production. We recommend planting the first two weeks of July for a fall crop in central Maine. Warmer areas try later July. If the summer is hot, cool the soil with a hay mulch in advance of planting, or shade peas with tall crops to hold in soil moisture.
Peas are 25% sucrose by weight and lose nearly half their sugars within 6 hours at room temperature. That’s why they taste best grazed right off the vine. Keep cool and shell as soon as possible after picking for freezing.
Not well adapted to southern climates where the spring heats up too quickly. Pam Dawling in Virginia has great success with Sugar Ann but cannot grow the tall longer-season Sugarsnap in her climate. Smooth-seeded peas germinate better in colder soils than wrinkle-seeded peas, but are not as sweet. Dawling suggests that forsythia flowering signals time to sow snap and snow peas.
Saving Seed: Saving pea seed is easy! Leave pods of spring-planted peas on the vine to dry. Hand shell, or stomp pods on a tarp. To ensure true-to-type seed, separate pea varieties by 30 feet.
CTV: Curly Top Virus
PM: Powdery Mildew
DM: Downy Mildew
PPR: Pythium Root rot
PSV: Pea Streak Virus
PEMV: Pea Enation Mosaic Virus
W: Common Wilt race 1
Powdery mildew looks like someone sprinkled talcum powder over the vines. It spreads rapidly when picking occurs in hot dry weather. Pick in early morning while the dew is still on the foliage to slow its spread and ensure best flavor. Fusarium causes vines to dry out, yellow, then brown and die. As a preventive, always sow peas on well-drained soil. Fusarium-infested soils are said to be pea sick. Do not save seed from plants afflicted with fusarium, which can be seed-borne. Rotate out of legumes for at least 4 years. Brassicas, especially mustards, are good disease-suppressant successions.
Off-types in peas continue to be a problem across the industry. Over the past several years we have eliminated some old favorites that got beyond the bounds of what is acceptable and added several more reliable varieties. We’ll keep working at it!
For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.