Growing and Harvesting Peas

Oh, dear sugar snap peas!  My dear, dear sugar snaps.  In all the time I've been growing food in our suburban farm days (approximately 10 years now!), I have to say that snap peas have been one of the most successful plants I've grown.  
Harvesting peasI started growing and harvesting peas when we purchased a home with a huge backyard.  That was about 10 years ago.  We ordered some seeds from one of our favorite heirloom seed companies, Baker Creek.  I bought sugar snap seeds one time, and I've never had to buy them again.

Honestly, I never have planted many sugar snaps.  I usually put about 12-20 snap pea seeds in the ground, and that is more than enough.  My daughter loves to eat them pod and all early harvest, snow pea style.  Up until this year, I have only harvested peas early as snow peas, because she is the main consumer.  I've typically let the rest grow and dry on the plant, so I can harvest them as next years sugar snap seeds.  And I ALWAYS have a plethora of pea seeds!

This year, I got wise.  Maybe I should spend more time on the things I know work!  (Smart, huh?  It only took me 10 years.  🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️)

So, I decided to increase my harvesting and use of the actual peas and reduce the number of leftover seeds.  I picked more early pods.  I started using them more in my salads and stir fry, because I really like peas, myself.  What we didn't eat, I froze.

Harvesting Peas
I also started picking the ones that had gone too far to eat pod and all (but not too far to be bitter!...we will talk more) and keeping the peas for eating.  However, I soon realized if I wanted to be able to continue harvesting peas in this way, too, I would definitely need to increase production.  So...I decided to take it to the next level.  I sectioned off a bigger plot in the garden and started a planting for fall harvest.  The little starts have already begun to pop up, and I can't wait to see how they produce.

Until then, here are some of my novice gardener tips for growing and harvesting peas:

When planning your sugar snap garden (because, kind of starts BEFORE you actually put those seeds in the ground):

1. I can't really say much about SOIL.  My snap peas have grown pretty much where nothing else (except blackberries...and that's a post for another day) will.  We have used raised beds in the past, and those are always very successful.  However, we are really interested in improving the actual ground around us.  We have been using the (local) woodchip method, for the last five years, and we still haven't gotten to a point where the soil is sufficiently productive.  (This year, I did a soil test and added some much needed the film and you will, I am hopeful.)  However, sugar snap peas are apparently like honey badgers, because they just don't care.  They have faithfully produced every year.

Harvesting Peas
2.  Similarly, SEEDS don't seem to be picky, either.  I started out with no idea what I was doing, and I've managed to get just about every seed I've saved to grow.  I just keep the ones that look similar to the ones I bought and planted years ago.  And I store them in pretty much whatever container I have on hand.  I try to limit my use of disposable plastic bags, but we have used everything else, from medicine containers to envelopes.  I do take the time to make sure they are completely dry before I store them for over winter.

3. It's fine to put those pea seeds in the ground without much thought, but pretty soon, you are going to wish you had thought about some kind of a TRELLIS.  I still don't have mine perfected.  I'm trying to not spend a lot of money, and since the peas are the least of my high maintenance needs around here...well, as you know...the squeaky wheel gets the oil.  (And my chickens are PRETTY darn squeaky!!)  We have been getting by with a flimsy tomato trellis turned on its side and supported an extra bit with string.  (It's best if you have something about 4-6 inches off the ground that the little shoots can grab.  Train them early and save yourself some headaches later on.  ...Please...Please learn from me...I am the queen of doing things the long, drawn out, back-breakingly difficult way.  Let me bear the strife for you.  Plan a least 3-4 feet high with something to grab every 6 inches.  You are welcome.)

Harvesting Peas
4.  WATER?  Ummmm...I don't think I've ever watered my peas???  I mean...maybe Matt has when I didn't know it, but I am telling you...peas are the way to start if you are just beginning to garden.  Just kind of keep an eye on them every now and then.  When you think, "Oh...these seeds were duds, and that post was bogus"...wait a few more days and maybe add some water.  I'm willing to bet (if you live in all but an arid climate) those little guys will surprise you and start sprouting.  Then, as long as they are green, they are good.  If you notice browning before flowering and production (I never have), then add water until they appear to have recovered.  When they are about 3-4 feet high, you should start noticing some white flowers.  

5. HARVEST.  This will sneak up on you, and it is the trickiest part, because the plant is the same color as the produce.  Those little guys are camouflaged!  And the snow peas grow fast, so pick them while they are young.  

        Snow peas - These should be green and flat.  Take a good look.  If they are more than an inch long, or so, they are good to grab.

        Sugar snap - If you want to put them in a stir fry, pick slightly bigger, when the inner peas are just beginning to bulge.

Harvesting Peas
Peas - If you want to discard the pod and stick to eating your peas, plant lots!!, and be sure the pods are still green when you pick them.  Once they start to turn yellow, and the peas inside are getting pretty big, they begin to taste bitter.  

        Seeds - Worry not, if you have reached the bitter phase!!  All is not lost...these peas are still good.  Just let them dry out.  When they are brown, you can pick them for next year's seeds.  (If you are going to have rain, you could save yourself from potential loss to mold by picking them and drying them out inside.)

Easy PEAsy, right?  (Ohhhhh!!  Do you think this is where they got that phrase?!!  🤯

Peas really are a great place for a beginning gardener to...well...begin, as far as I can see.  I mean...if they worked for me...🤷‍♀️

Happy Gardening!

Photos are in progressive harvesting order.  

#1 and #2) Snow peas ready to eat...pod and all.  
#3) Sugar Snap - Ready for your stir fry.
#4) Compost that pod and eat those peas!
#5) Pea seeds - pick and save for next years planting.
#6) My pea seeds, dried and ready for storing.