Harvesting, storing & drying peas


With a passion for growing installed at an early age, I have always been happiest outdoors in nature. After training as a professional gardener and horticultural therapist, I currently run horticultural therapy and community kitchen gardens in the UK, helping others access the many physical and mental health benefits of growing vegetables, fruit and plants.

Favourite fruit: apples and pears
Favourite vegetable: asparagus

With peas ready to harvest just a few weeks after sowing, you could be picking your own peas in no time. Read on to learn more about harvesting and storing peas.

Basket of freshly picked peas
Picking peas regularly will encourage new pods to form [Photo: vaivirga/ Shutterstock.com]

Although most delicious when eaten fresh, peas (Pisum sativum) can produce impressive yields that may be surplus to your needs. Discover how and when to harvest peas and how to store them to preserve their wonderful taste.

Harvesting peas

If you are wondering when to harvest peas, the answer is generally between June and September. However, when your peas are ready to pick depends on when they were sown and the pea variety you grow.

When to harvest peas

With careful planning and successional sowing, you could be picking peas all summer long. Pea varieties are harvested at different stages, and you can tell when to pick peas by their appearance rather than the time of year. For example, the common garden pea that you shell before eating is ready to harvest when the pods are swollen and distinctly filled with peas. Whereas mangetout and sugar snap types are picked when they are young and 5 to 7cm long with the peas only just beginning to show.

A pod full of peas
Garden peas are ready to harvest when the pods are swollen and filled with good sized peas [Photo: Irina Bg/ Shutterstock.com]

How to harvest peas

For the crispest and freshest peas, harvest them first thing in the morning before the heat of the day has had the chance to dry them out. To harvest peas, start from the bottom of the plant up as these peas mature first. To prevent any damage to the plant, use one hand to hold the stem and pinch or gently pull the pods off with the other. Peas are best picked every 2 to 3 days as if they are left on the plant for too long, they can become tough and the taste can diminish.

However, you can also collect some of the seeds to sow peas the following year or use them when dried to add to soups and stews. To pick peas for these purposes, leave some pods on the plant at the end of the season to fully dry before harvesting.

A mangetout pod on vine
Mangetout are eaten whole when they are young [Photo: Trygve Finkelsen/ Shutterstock.com]

How to store peas

Over the summer months, you may find that you have more peas ready to harvest than you can eat fresh. Thankfully storing peas is easy and will prevent them from going to waste. If you only need to keep your peas for a short while you can put them in the fridge for up to 5 days. However, if you need to preserve them for longer, you can choose from the following methods.

Freezing peas

Freezing peas is a good way to preserve their nutritional content and taste. To freeze garden peas, prepare them by removing them from their pods and blanching them in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. Blanching peas before freezing them is not essential. However, it is said to help keep their colour, firmness and flavour when it comes round to cooking them. Once blanched, run the peas under cold water to stop the cooking process and place them in sealable bags with the air squeezed out before freezing. Once frozen, blanched peas will keep in the freezer for up to a year. Freezing sugar snaps peas is even easier, as you can freeze them whole without shelling the peas and they do not need blanching.

Frozen garden peas in bowl
Blanched and frozen peas can be kept in the freezer for up to a year [Photo: Snowbelle/ Shutterstock.com]

Drying peas

Another method for long-term storage is drying peas, for which there are two methods. To dry peas using the first method, shell and blanch them before patting them dry. You can then place the peas in a single layer either in a dehydrator or an oven until they are hard and wrinkled. The second method might be lengthier but saves energy. Simply harvest the peas when fully ripe and allow them to dry and harden in a covered and well-ventilated space for 2 to 3 days. Once dry, you can store dried peas in a sealed container in a cool and dry place for 6 to 12 months. However, if they show signs of mould they should be discarded and not eaten. To use dried peas, simply rehydrate them by placing them in boiling water or a stew that is cooking for at least 15 to 20 minutes.

Canning peas

The method of canning vegetables to preserve them can also be used for peas. Canning peas can be done at home using a pressure canner. To can peas, firstly prepare the peas by shelling and blanching them. Next place the peas into a sterilised canning jar and cover with boiling water leaving a 2cm gap at the top of the jar. Seal the jar and place it in the pressure canner to heat up as instructed. Once cooked, allow the jar to cool down completely before storing it in a cool and dark place until required. Canned peas can be safely kept for up to a year.

Drying peas on oven tray
Peas can be dried either in an oven or a dehydrator [Photo: michael sheehan/ Shutterstock.com]

Peas are a garden staple and can generally be relied upon to produce a good harvest. However, for a bumper crop, check out our separate article for some tips on how to grow peas successfully at home.