Chicharo


Pisum Sativum Macrocarpon

CHICHARO – Snow peas, Chinese Peas, Mange-tout (Fr.) He lan do (Mandarin)- is also a cool season vegetable so it only grows in the cool Mountain Province in the Philippines just like the Baguio Beans. It originated from the Mediterranean and the Chinese adapted it from English as “Holland Pea” (He Lan Do) and incorporate it in almost all the Chinese recipes so they are widely known as Chinese Snow Peas.

Chicharo is a Spanish word for snow peas. I think “chicharo” came from the word
“chicharon” which means crackling of crispy which really describes the peas perfectly because when you eat this fresh pea, it will be crispy and would really crack in your mouth. Just like the French word Mange-tout which means eat-it all, that means, you can eat the whole thing and it is delicious. I like to eat them when I am gathering from my garden and they will also be sweet and juicy. The tender shoots, leaves and tendrils, (dau mau in Cantonese) are also edible and sold in specialty stores as a delicacy.

Snow peas or chicharo as we call it, are flat podded peas and translucent, you can almost see the seed inside. It is one of the group of peas like the sugar snap peas and the peas that are meant to be shelled only. This shelling variety is what we call “guisantes” another Spanish word. It used to be available only as a canned Sweet Peas but just recently we have been importing frozen peas, so now you can see them in the supermarkets everywhere in the Philippines.

Like most legumes, it needed full sun, rich soil and good drainage. It has two varieties, dwarf and climbers. The one I had successfully planted in the garden is a climber because it really went up to 8-9 feet tall and I could hardly reach the top to gather the pea pods. And lately the trade winds are really are blowing the vines down and hopefully it will not stop it from flowering and giving me more sweet pods. The vines needed a fertilizer every 2-3 weeks. They needed less nitrogen because they are like beans which fix their own nitrogen in the soil, so the best is give them fertilizer where the middle number is higher like 15-30-15 (NPK). For the climbers, you will need to give them support like a bamboo trellis or fence. You might want to soak the seeds first before planting to speed up germination just like other hard shell beans or legumes. The way I planted them is to put seeds in one row and another row behind the trellis, (back-to-back) because I found out that they like to support each other in the trellis and so they have more strong bond and grow vertically perfectly!

The peas will have white flowers and the peas will follow shortly afterwards in about 50-60 days of planting. The plants are shallow rooted just like the pole beans so be careful when cultivating around the plants. I try not to weed when they are already producing because sometimes I accidentally pull out the plants and that is very much disappointing because not only I wasted a good plant, I wasted time and most important of all, some delicious pea pods that I might be cooking for dinner that day.

Chicharo or snow peas are good source of protein, insoluble fiber, traces of iron and Vitamin C.

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