Arizona has several climate zones, from the cold winter areas in northern Arizona to the low desert where Phoenix is located. When people think Arizona, they most likely think hot desert, and for a few months of the year they're correct. The mild winters of metro Phoenix and Tucson mean peas and other vegetables are grown through fall and winter.
English peas grow to 6 feet tall and use tendrils to wrap around netting or other supports. They are a cool season crop and stop producing and die when it gets too hot. Peas mature in two to three months (55 to 90 days) from planting, depending on variety. Start planting peas in Arizona in October when temperatures have cooled off a bit, and harvesting will start in January and February.
Snap peas have edible pods with a slightly sweeter taste than English Peas. The pods will fill out with normal sized peas if left on the vine. Since the pods are harvested in an immature state they are ready sooner than English peas. The planting and cultures are about the same. Both snap peas and English peas are born on very short stems close to the vine.
Also known as cowpeas, black-eyed peas originated from Africa. Unlike English and snap peas, black-eyed peas are a warm season crop. The plants take 80 to 90 days to mature. Plant in March for a crop in early June. A second crop may be planted in July to be ready in October. The peas are inside a casing that looks much like a string bean. The entire casing (and peas inside) may be eaten cooked when young. Don't wait too long to harvest or the casing gets stringy. The leaves may be cooked or eaten raw.
Sweet peas are not named sweet because of their taste. In fact, sweet peas are toxic if ingested. The sweet nomenclature comes from the scent of the sweet pea. The vine itself looks much like English or snap peas. The flowers are bigger, more brightly colored and the stems are longer, 4 to 6 inches long. The vines reach 6 feet, although there are dwarf varieties that only get 24 inches high. Sweet peas are slower to sprout than English and snap peas and take longer to start flowering.