Seed Saving: Peas

If you are interested in seed saving, peas are a great crop to start with! Here are some guidelines for how to do it. Start with the long version, and if you get overwhelmed jump to the short version at the end ;)

Long version:
Peas usually self-pollinate, which means they don't readily cross with other varieties. Excellent for a beginner seed saver! Most folks usually only grow one variety at a time, but if you grow two or if your nearest neighbor is growing peas, just make sure the different varieties are at least 10 feet apart, preferably 20.

To maintain genetic diversity within your seed selection, make sure to save from at least 5 but preferably 10 different plants. If you don't have enough space to do that, don't fret - save what you can and supplement with either occasional seed purchases or swap seeds with friends.

One of the fun parts of seed saving is selecting what seed you want to save, or rather what characteristics of a plant you want to try to keep. Typically this means you select the best performing plants to save from, but that can mean anything from the tastiest to the heaviest producing. To start with, do not select from plants or fruits that have obvious diseases, blemishes, or pest problems.

When it comes to sugar snap peas, I have been selecting for 2 traits. I save seed from the plants that produce peas first. Of those plants, I only save seed from pods that have more than 5 peas per pod. Over time, this should give me earlier and larger crops of peas. But you can pick whatever characteristics you want or even choose randomly-- as long as the plants are healthy, you will do fine :)

Mark the plants you want to save seed from and don't eat from those plants (except perhaps a taste test of one pod to make sure they are sweet and worth saving). I use a piece of flagging tape or a strip of an old bandana.

You can harvest your pea seeds once they have fully ripened and dried out on the vine. The pods tend to rattle a bit when they are fully dry. If poor weather is moving in before they are fully dry (such as a week of rain or a frost), you can pull the whole plant, with the roots intact if possible, and hang them upside down to finish drying. I hang ours under our covered patio or in the basement with a fan on them depending on the weather.

Once the pods are fully dry, they should easily snap open and release the seeds. Keep the seeds and compost the pods & plants. The seeds themselves will still need another few weeks of air drying. I store them in a paper bag and hang them in front of a fan. Whenever I think if it, I shake them to redistribute the seeds for even drying. You will know they are dry enough when they are as hard as pebbles.

Now they are ready to be stored until planting time. Pea seeds can remain viable for 3-4 years if you store them in a cool, dark, and dry place. We live in an arid plateau so under the stairs in our basement works great for us (off the concrete floor though). Store them in an air tight container if you can, but make sure they are fully dry first. You can also freeze them, which will kill any potential pests living in the pea seeds. I haven't tried that yet but will this year as I noticed a fair amount of insect damage on my plants. I know - I said not to save pest damaged seed. I don't always do what I say.

Short version:
Was that too much? Sorry! Just leave the peas on a couple plants until they are dried hard. Save those peas somewhere cool inside your house and plant them next year. Easy peasy.

Good luck!