There’s nothing quite like the taste of fresh summer peas. One of my favorite ways to ensure that I have an ample seed supply of this delicious garden snack is to save their seeds every year. And luckily, it’s very easy to do.
Saving pea seeds is as simple as harvesting overripe peas, drying out the pods, separating the seeds from the pods, and storing them properly to preserve their viability.
If you’re new to seed saving, peas are very beginner friendly. I’ll also share the best varieties to save seeds from, how to prevent pea weevil damage and the best way to test your seed germination.
Best pea varieties for seed saving
The first thing to know when choosing pea varieties is the difference between the three types: snap, snow, and shell. While the differences are subtle, knowing them will help you decide which ones you’d like to save the seeds from based on your personal preferences.
Snap peas are the classic pea variety that people generally think of and include most of the sugar varieties that we all know and love. They have a plump and tender shell that’s completely edible along with the bean inside.
Here are some snap pea varieties that are great for seed saving:
- Sugar Snap
- Sugar Ann
- Sugar Magnolia
Snow peas are very similar to snap peas in flavor and texture. The only major difference is that their shell is flat instead of full and round like the snap pea. This is the type of pea that we generally see in dishes like stir-fry.
Try these snow pea varieties for seed saving:
- Mammoth Melting Sugar
- Oregon Sugar Pod II
- Dwarf Grey Sugar
Shell peas are exactly like they sound in that they’re meant to be shelled or shucked. Their pod is a lot tougher than snap or snow peas and therefore isn’t great for eating. The beans inside must be removed first before they can be eaten.
Check out these shell pea varieties for seed saving:
- Green Arrow
- Little Marvel
Peas and cross-pollination
Peas are great because they are self-pollinating and you rarely have to worry about cross-pollination with other pea varieties. As long as you’re not growing different varieties right next to each other, you should be fine.
Something important for seed saving is making sure that the varieties you choose are open-pollinated or heirloom. If you save the seeds from hybrid varieties, there’s a chance that those seeds won’t grow true to type next year.
All of the varieties I mentioned earlier are open-pollinated or heirloom so if you stick to those, you should be good to go!
How to save pea seeds – step-by-step
Harvest the peas
Now that you’ve decided that you want to save pea seeds, you’ll want to leave some peas on the plant for a couple of weeks longer than you normally would if you were harvesting them to eat.
Make sure you’re only saving seeds from your best-looking pea plants as these are the genetics you want to be passed on to the next generation of peas.
If you’re worried that your peas don’t look good enough for seed saving, check out this article on how to troubleshoot common problems in pea plants.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to harvest a ton of peas unless you’re looking to save a ton of seeds. Peas have about 5 seeds per pod so if you save just 20 pods, you’ll have about 100 seeds for next year.
You’ll be able to tell when the seeds are ready to be saved because the pods will start to dry out on the plant and turn brownish in color. Letting the peas dry out a bit on the plant first is also to your benefit because it will save you on drying time later on.
Dry the seeds
Once your peas are harvested, go ahead and lay them out on some kind of flat surface to finish drying. Even if they seem pretty dry on the plant, you’ll want to give them about another week after you’ve harvested just to make sure they’re completely dry.
When your seeds are dry, you’ll be able to hear the peas rattle inside the pod when you give it a shake.
If you’re still unsure if they’re dry enough, open up a pod and squeeze the peas inside. They should be pretty hard, almost like a popcorn kernel. If they still have a little bit of give to them, they’re not dry enough yet.
Shuck the peas
Now that your peas are dry, it’s time to remove the seeds from the pods. If you’ve never shucked peas before, you’re in for a treat. Pea shucking is one of my favorite things because it’s so easy and can be an activity that your friends and family can join in on too.
All you need to do is break open the pods and separate out the pea seeds, that’s it!
If you’re saving seeds from several different varieties of peas, make sure you have a system in place to tell them apart. Pea seeds pretty much all look the same regardless of variety.
How to store pea seeds
You’ll want to store your pea seeds in a cool, dry area like a kitchen cabinet or a basement. You have a lot of options when it comes to what you can store your seeds in. You can use things like ziplock bags, Tupperware, mason jars, or coin envelopes.
If you see any condensation forming on your storage container, then your seeds are not dry enough and risk growing mold. To fix this you can either try laying them out to dry again or stick a gel silica packet in with the seeds to dry up the excess moisture.
One problem you can run into with saving pea seeds is the pea or bean weevil. These pesky little bugs will eat your pea seeds and ruin all the hard work you put into saving them.
Making sure your seeds are completely dry is crucial to keeping pea weevils out of your seeds. You should also store your seeds in an airtight container to keep out these insect pests.
If you’re really worried about the weevils and want to take another preventative measure. You can try freezing your seeds for about 3 days to kill any weevil larva that may be on them. Again, make sure your pea seeds are completely dry before freezing them so as not to damage the seeds.
Once you’ve saved them, your pea seeds should be good for up to four years. But if you’re ever unsure, you can do a simple germination test to see if the seeds are still viable.
Place your seeds in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel and keep an eye on them for a few days. Re-dampen the paper towel as needed and notice when they start to sprout in the bag.
If you see that the seeds have inconsistent germination or haven’t germinated at all, they’re probably no good anymore and should be tossed.
If you’ve considered saving seeds in the past but were maybe too intimidated by the idea, try saving pea seeds. The process is as simple as harvesting the peas, letting them dry, and shucking them.
Just make sure to store them properly to maintain viability and keep an eye out for any pea weevil damage.
Once you’ve saved pea seeds, you’ll have the confidence to save seeds from all of your garden vegetables. You may even find that you end up with more seeds than you know what to do with. If this is the case, don’t forget to share some with your friends!