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The Best Peas for North Dakota

Pea plants climbing up a trellis

Garden peas are a very popular vegetable grown in North Dakota. Nothing tastes better than picking a fresh pod, shelling it in the garden, and popping the sweet peas into your mouth. Delicious!

Research conducted by hundreds of families in North Dakota have identified some of the finest varieties of peas. Working as volunteers in the North Dakota Home Garden Variety Trials, these gardeners have rated pea varieties for germination, vine health, earliness, yields and taste qualities over 15 years. In each trial, we compare two varieties side by side in the garden. The following is a summary of our findings:

Shell Peas

Close up of Shelled Shell Peas
Shell peas are very popular in North Dakota.

Lincoln is the finest, most reliable pea for gardeners in North Dakota. We have compared Lincoln to many different varieties including Bountiful Ben, Early Frosty, Green Arrow, Maestro, Mr. Big, Progress No. 9, Sabre and Sienna. In each trial, more gardeners recommended Lincoln. This is an amazing track record covering all kinds of weather conditions from year to year.

Lincoln matures early and tolerates heat. Its sturdy vines are productive and yield over an extended period. Lincoln pods are large, attractive and easy to shell. Its peas are sweet, delicious and good for freezing. 

Other noteworthy performers include Green Arrow (large pods), Wando (tolerates heat), Knight (robust vines and yields) and Maestro Improved (early). Good freezers noted for earliness and concentrated yields include Early Frosty and Little Marvel.

Snap Peas

Pile of snap pea pods
The pods of snap peas are juicy and crunchy.

Snap peas were a breeding breakthrough 40 years ago. These peas have crunchy, juicy pods that do not require shelling. This saves gardeners a lot of time and their edible yields increase. The pods are eaten as a raw snack or may be lightly cooked.

Sugar Ann is the finest snap pea for North Dakota. Its vines are dwarf (do not require a trellis), healthy and productive. Its yields are early and the pods are delicious. 

The most famous snap pea is Super Sugar Snap. This tall-vined variety requires trellising. It grows vigorously and produces high yields. 

Snow Peas

Close up of plated shrimp and snow pea stir fry
The crisp, sweet pods of snow peas are delightful in stir fries.

These edible-pod peas are harvested just as the peas inside the pods begin to swell. Snow peas are wonderful when used in stir fries and salads. Avalanche and Oregon Sugar Pod 2 mature early and produce high yields of sweet pods. Sweet Horizon produces gourmet-quality pods; these pods are bright green, sweet and straight. For large pods, you can’t beat Oregon Giant.

Finding These Varieties

All of the varieties mentioned above are widely available in seed catalogs. You can Google them and find many seed sources. Here's a complete list of recommended vegetable varieties as well as major seed companies that offer free catalogs. Now is a great time to request for these free catalogs.

We Invite You to Join Our Team

Would you like to test promising pea varieties in your garden? North Dakota State University welcomes you to join our team of backyard garden researchers. It is one of the largest teams of agricultural researchers in the nation. Over 200 families participate every year. The trials are fun and easy to conduct.

For more information, go to the North Dakota Home Garden Variety Trials website. Request our online catalog and we’ll send it to you in March. We test over 40 different kinds of vegetables and flowers every year. All gardeners are welcome to participate. It’s a fun project for kids, too.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Photos courtesy of Dave GunnJulie and jeffreyw