Growing peas is easy. They ripen fairly early and into midsummer. They are done before we’ve had a chance to really enjoy them. For about 3-4 weeks, they are a staple in most of our meals and a crunchy snack all of us enjoy (usually munched on as we pick them). But once they’re done, they’re done. Or are they?
First of all, peas will stay nice and crisp for about five days, so that short lifespan means you need to eat them quickly. Second, the more you pick, the more you’ll encourage additional pods to grow. So pick them in the morning, check for ripe pods often, and use care when picking them. Hold the vine with one hand and gently pluck the pod from it with your other hand.
Peas don’t like the heat and you can actually grow them again from late summer to early fall. They will need some extra care if it’s very hot outside, so if you love peas and want more after that initial June~July harvest, try starting another crop indoors. Once the seedlings are established and summer is on the wane, you can transport them outside into the garden. Make sure they have adequate support, of course! Peas grow up and need something to climb.
Once they turn brown on the vine, you might think there’s nothing to do but add them to the compost, but hold on – the peas are still good for a couple of uses! First, you can open the pods and use the peas for winter soups. Whether or not you want to use your peas really depends on the variety. We have sugar snap peas, and we’ve found that past their prime, they have a very bitter taste, so we won’t use them in soups or as dried snacks.
Another thing to do with the peas is use them as next year’s seeds. That scattering of leftover dried, brown pea pods left on the vine is perfect for this. Of course, you can try planting them immediately, in hopes of getting a second harvest this year. If you do that, you can plant them immediately without completely drying them. Otherwise, let the peas dry. You may want to crack open the pod for more ventilation if you’re drying them naturally. The peas will separate themselves from the pod when they are dry and make a little clacking sound when you drop them. Don’t fling them at the counter, of course! Then you’ll lose your seeds. But they should be noisy little guys when they’re fully dried.
Label them and save them for next year’s seeds. If you have more than enough, share the love with others! They’ll love growing peas and eating them right off the vine, too.