Garden peas are shelled and the pods are discarded.
image by Sanja Gjenero/sxc.hu
Three major variety of peas are grown in the home garden: sugar, snap and garden. Sugar and snap peas are picked early in the season and the whole pod is eaten. Garden peas are grown a bit longer before harvesting. The picked peas are shelled (the pods are discarded) and the peas inside are eaten. After the harvesting period passes, any remaining sugar and snap pea pods can be grown as garden peas. Expect to begin harvesting your peas anywhere between 50 and 70 days, depending on variety.
Sugar and Snap Peas
Harvest sugar and snap peas at least every other day. Pick sugar peas just as they begin to get fat, and you can easily break the pods like you can with string beans. Pick snap peas when they are still flat but have grown to their largest potential size, which depends on their variety. This usually occurs about five to seven days after the plant flowers.
Let the pea plants continue to grow if you missed their prime picking time: The pod will be too fibrous (tough) and cannot be eaten. For sugar peas, simply let the pods continue to grow until they get fat and round with mature peas inside. For snap peas, break the old pods off. The plant will continue to make new pea pods, which will be larger the second time around.
De-string snap peas. Some varieties will have a fibrous string running along the seams. This must be removed before cooking or eating. These varieties can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Harvest swollen, rounded pea pods immediately. Doing so will mean the peas inside are still immature and tender. If the pea pods are left on the vine past this point, the peas inside will mature and grow hard.
Pick the pods every other day to ensure the interior peas do not mature. Snap them off at the bottom of the stem. If you do not damage the plant, it will keep growing new pods throughout the season.
Harvest garden peas shortly before you plan to cook or eat them. They do not store well once removed from the pod.