How to Harvest and Dry Pea Seeds for Saving

As a cool weather crop, peas are a great choice for starting seed saving. With proper drying and storage, pea seeds remain viable for several years, allowing you to grow treasured varieties year after year Harvesting pea seeds at the right time and drying them properly are key steps

When to Harvest Pea Seeds

Timing is everything when harvesting pea seeds. For the best quality seeds, allow pods to dry completely on the vine. Monitor pods closely as they start yellowing and browning. Test a few to check if seeds are hardening off. Seeds are mature when:

  • Pods are completely dry and brown.
  • Pods make a rattling sound when shook, indicating seeds have detached from the pod lining.
  • Seeds are hard when squeezed gently out of the pod.
  • Seeds have changed from green to tan or brown.

Don’t wait until pods split open on their own or seeds may be lost. If heavy rain, disease, or frost threaten before pods dry, pull plants and hang them upside down in a dry, ventilated space. This allows seeds to finish maturing.

Signs Seeds Are Immature

If seeds feel soft, shrink within the pod, or are still greenish, they need more time to mature. Immature seeds won’t germinate well or may rot in storage. Letting pods fully ripen on plants results in optimum seed quality.

How to Dry Pea Pods

Seed must be thoroughly dried for storage. Pea pods are typically around 30% moisture when harvested. This must be reduced to 10-12% for proper storage. Slow, gentle drying prevents damaging seeds. Here are a few drying methods:

  • Air Drying Tie pea plants into bundles and hang upside down in a dry, well-ventilated area out of direct sun. Use fans to keep air circulating

  • Screen Drying: Spread pods in a single layer over mesh racks or screens. Stir periodically to ensure even drying.

  • Paper Bag Drying Place pod bundles or loose pods in open paper bags Hang bags or spread out in a warm area with good airflow

  • Low Temp Oven Drying: Spread pods on trays and dry at 95-100°F for several hours with the door ajar. Stir occasionally. Monitor closely to prevent overheating.

It takes about 2 weeks for pods to dry properly. To test if seeds are dry enough, snap a few pods. They should break open easily, revealing hard, light-colored seeds that don’t dent when pressed with a fingernail. If pods bend or seeds remain soft/green, continue drying. When fully dry, shells become brittle and transparent.

Removing Seeds from Dried Pods

Once pods are crispy dry, you can hand shell seeds by pinching pods to crack them open. Shake and rub to separate seeds from pod pieces and chaff. You can also walk on pods spread over a tarp to break them open.

For larger volumes, put dry pods in a bag and stomp on them or beat the bag with a stick. This encourages pods to split and release their seeds. Dump pods from the bag onto a screen or mesh colander. Shake and sift to filter out debris, keeping just the seeds. A final cleaning with a box fan blowing over the seeds drops chaff and immature seeds.

Storing Dried Pea Seeds

Dry pea seeds remain viable for up to 5 years if stored properly in cool, dark, and dry conditions. To maximize longevity:

  • Place seeds in airtight containers like mason jars or mylar bags. Oxygen and humidity damage seeds over time.

  • Store containers in a cool basement, pantry, or freezer. Ideal temps are below 75°F. The cooler the better for long-term storage.

  • Use silica gel packs in containers to absorb moisture and prevent mold growth.

  • Monitor annually and discard any seeds showing signs of damage or declining germination rates.

Proper drying and sealing out excess moisture prevents seeds from rotting in storage. With multiple varieties, label each container clearly and note the harvest year and variety. Pea seeds won’t last forever, but with good harvest and post-harvest practices, you can preserve your pea seeds for years of future harvests.

Troubleshooting Pea Seed Saving

Pea seeds are relatively easy to save, but here are some potential problems and solutions:

Seeds molding in storage: Seeds weren’t dried sufficiently before storage. Discard moldy seeds and improve drying method.

Low germination rates: Seeds harvested too early. Allow seeds to fully mature on plants before harvesting pods for seed.

Seed-borne diseases: Some bacterial and fungal diseases can carry over on seed coats. Practice crop rotation and seed treatment to limit disease transmission.

Cross-pollination: Pea flowers self-pollinate but occasional crosses can occur. Isolate different varieties by at least 25 feet.

Seed loss/damage: Use row cover to keep pods protected from rain. Harvest before pods split open. Improve seed cleaning and handling to avoid mechanical damage.

The Benefits of Saving Pea Seeds

Here are some of the top reasons to save seeds from your own pea harvests:

  • Maintain rare/heirloom varieties. Saving seeds prevents beloved varieties from being lost. You can propagate treasured genetics year after year.

  • Adapt varieties to your climate. Plants adjust and adapt to your local conditions over generations. Saved seeds will be better optimized for your specific environment.

  • Avoid hybrid drawbacks. Hybrid peas don’t produce true-to-type progeny. Saving seeds preserves stable open-pollinated heirlooms.

  • Reduce costs. Purchasing pea seeds every year can add up. With seed saving, a one-time investment provides a continual harvest.

  • Learn valuable skills. Seed saving teaches patience, responsibility, and the importance of preserving genetic diversity. These lessons are invaluable.

If you’ve never saved seeds before, peas are a perfect crop to start with. Follow the steps covered here for harvesting, drying, cleaning, and storing your pea seeds, and with little effort you can save seeds for many future harvests.

When and How to Harvest for Food Consumption

Peas can be harvested in the snap/green stage, the shelling stage, or the dry stage. Snap peas are ready for harvest when the pods are still tender, before the seeds start to swell. Shelling peas are ready when the pods are tender and the seeds are round and plump. When the pods are dry and brittle and the seeds inside are hard, it’s time to pick dry peas.

You can eat early peas right out of the pod, but later peas can be shelled and added to salads, soups, and stir fries. Snap peas and snow peas are often eaten whole. Dried peas can be cooked like beans and used in soups, stews, and dips. Pea shoots also make a tasty snack.

Before you use them, blanch and freeze peas to keep their spring flavors for another day. Peas can also be left on the vine to dry. Dry peas will store for several years in a cool, dry place.

How to Grow Peas

It is easy to see why this early-season crop is a popular garden plant. Peas don’t need much care besides a trellis and keeping pests away, but they make a lot of snappy pods in the spring and summer.

Plant peas outside as soon as the soil can be worked, but don’t do it when it’s below 50 degrees F, because peas don’t germinate well in cold soil.

Seeds should be planted at a depth of ½–1 inch and between 2–3 inches apart. Space rows of peas at least 18 inches apart.

Pea plants require a trellis to support their climbing habit. Panels of thick wire, such as cattle panels, work well for this purpose. You can also build a chain of chicken wire or twine or bamboo trellises for the peas to climb. Peas do not tolerate drought, excessive temperatures, or waterlogged soil. Peas should be grown in an open, sheltered position on moisture-retentive, deep, free-draining soil.

Saving Pea Seeds Made Easy!


How do you dry peas for sowing?

Harvesting Peas to Save for Seed Remove the whole plant and hang upside down from the shed roof or greenhouse or rafters in a garage etc. Anywhere warm and dry but with good airflow will do the job. Once the pods are cracking, shell the peas out and dry for another few days to a week.

Do peas need to dry before planting?

They should land with a hard clack. Any hint of a dull thud is a sign of moisture. However, if you’re planning to plant them immediately you don’t need to dry them out fully. You can plant them straight away, although I’ve personally had more success by drying them down at least partially before sowing them.

What is the best way to germinate pea seeds?

Lay pea seeds between the folds of a moistened paper towel and place inside a clear, perforated plastic bag. Keep seeds moist and in a warm place. When roots begin to show, plant the seeds into containers or directly into your garden. When transplanting seedlings be careful not to break off tender roots.

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