The Man You Should Thank For Your Love of Sugar Snap Peas

Calvin Lamborn's over-sized pea 52s that are as sweet as candy.

Calvin Lamborn’s over-sized pea 52s that are as sweet as candy.

 

TWIN FALLS, IDAHO — You may not be familiar with Calvin Lamborn’s name. But you know his delicious life’s work. He is the plant breeder responsible for creating the first commercially viable sugar snap pea in 1979.

It’s hard to imagine a time without those sweet, crunchy pea pods. But before Lamborn worked his magic, you couldn’t find sugar snap peas regularly at farmers markets or supermarkets. Oh, and those stringless sugar snap peas we all adore because they don’t have to be peeled? Yup, he created those, too.

Calvin Lamborn and his wife, Bonnie, who had a sugar snap pea variety name for her.

Calvin Lamborn and his wife, Bonnie, who had a sugar snap pea variety name for her.

At 80 years of age now, Lamborn is not thinking about slowing down anytime soon. And top chefs in New York are sure thankful for that. Lincoln Ristorante, Union Square Cafe, The Breslin, wd-50 and more clamor to use his handiwork in their dishes — over-sized pea 52s that taste as sweet as candy, snap peas the bold color of a red chile pepper, and frilly pea leaves the likes of which no one had ever seen before.

A red and yellow snap pea.

A red and yellow snap pea.

Purple snap peas.

Purple snap peas.

A most unusual pea leaf that sells for $36 a pound at New York City Greenmarkets.

A most unusual pea leaf that sells for $36 a pound at New York City Greenmarkets.

What makes his work all the more incredible is the fact that he accomplished all of this after the seed company for which he created the sugar snap forced him to “retire” in a move to down-size. Lamborn wasn’t nearly ready to do so. Thanks to his moxie, the culinary world is a much more wondrous place now.

Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Lamborn at his test field in Idaho and even hitching a ride on the electric two-person chair he invented to maneuver through the rows.

Enjoy the story of this pioneering botanist in the September issue of Food Arts. In all my years of writing, it is probably one of the most favorite stories I’ve ever had the privilege to work on.

Lamborn rides his invention with his grandson.

Lamborn rides his invention with his grandson.

Checking his test crops.

Checking his test crops.

 

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Date: Friday, 29. August 2014 5:25
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2 comments

  1. 1

    I love sugar snap peas! I buy them every time I see them in stores and farmers markets. Great for stir-frys or salads. They probably are my favorite peas both for taste and ease of use! I didn’t realize they come in different colors and size. I wish I can find those locally.

  2. 2

    Wow! Those purple and red snap peas look amazing. Never seen those before.

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