Peas are a great crop to add to any garden and a ‘must have’ in your survival seed kit.
Peas are among the first things that can be planted in the spring and even in a cooler climate they are a delightful crop you can get going up to a month before the last frost. For emergency food storage, peas provide carbohydrates, flavor, sugar, dietary fiber, and an amazing variety of vitamins and minerals including magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Peas come in four separate varieties to suit your garden and cooking needs
Shell Peas: These sweet green peas are to be shelled from their tough inedible pods. Shell peas are excellent for storage, they can be eaten raw by the handful or in salads, cooked, and as a crunchy snack in their dehydrated form. Shell Peas are sometimes called English peas.
Snap Peas: Are eaten whole – shell and all. The pod and the peas are sweet and crunchy. They are marvelous in salads. Snap pea varieties yield more food per square foot than either other type of pea.
Snow Peas: The pea plants produce tender, flat pods that are meant to be eaten whole. Their vine tips are also tender, taste good and can be added to salads and stir-fries.
Soup Peas: Soup pea varieties produce hard starch filled peas meant to be dried inside their pods. As their name suggests they make excellent peas to add to soups.
If you have peas in your survival seed kit, there is no better way to learn how to grow them than by actually doing it a few times.
To prepare the pea bed add soil amendments in the fall and turn the soil over, do not fertilize prior to planting in the spring. Like other legumes pea plants will fix nitrogen in the soil making the nitrogen available for other plants to use. Since peas are an early season plant, its ideal to plant a non-legume in their place when they are done, carrots work well as they can be harvested in the fall. If the growing season in your area is too short to do that, the pea bed can be rotated to a different location for next season. This practice will also help prevent the build up of fungi and bacteria in the soil which can be detrimental to your peas.
Peas grow poorly in hot weather so plant peas early in the season or late in the season. All peas can benefit from some method of support, this is best installed before planting. Long vine varieties may need a trellis up to six foot tall. Shorter varieties can do with mere staking.
Loosen the soil by working it by hand or by tilling 10-12 inches deep. Most peas varieties can be planted in a double row (this is the technique I use, but you should still read and adhere to the recommendations for the specific variety of pea) about 2 inches apart and about and inch deep. Then run a another row a few inches away right alongside it. I soak my peas overnight prior to planting. While I know this is optional, I have noticed the ones that I soak usually sprout first.
As you can see from my pictures I used a cattle panel attached to two T-Posts for my peas to climb. This will also work with other varieties of fencing in a pinch, anything the vines can grab they will climb. I plant two double rows of peas. Two on the left side of the panel and two on the right side. I do not thin my peas unless I have messed up my spacing while planting as it is not usually necessary.
Once the vines are taller than a foot you can mulch them to help keep the base moist and cool. This is especially helpful to those growing peas in warmer climates. Peas are a beautiful crop and I love watching them grow, they can even make a great ornamental plant that gives you something back, with their vines and beautiful flowers. Try container peas on the front porch or put some on the side of the house with lattice instead of other flowering vines.
The sweet shell peas I grow are ready to pick when their pods are looking plump and they start getting a waxy sheen to them. When peas are ripe, pick them daily or as often as you can, but do it with two hands to avoid wrecking the vines. If you have a husband or wife who wants to help you pick peas remind them of this several times as ‘one handed picking’ will collapse the vines and prematurely put an end to your pea production.
Pick peas before the green starts to fade on them. What is happening is that the sugars in them are being converted to starch so the longer you wait the harder and more flavorless they will become. Immediately store your peas in the fridge to stop this process, next quickly shell and blanch peas meant for storage – for one and a half minutes. Blanching by lightly boiling or steaming is necessary to stop the sugar conversion process, preserve color, cleanse the peas, and it retards the loss of vitamins. If you are going to can the peas using a ‘raw pack method’ you can forgo the blanching process.
I have found dehydrating peas to be one of the best methods of storage for peas. This makes them easy to add to soups, use as snacks, or to re-hydrate for regular cooking. Above is a gallon bag of dehydrated peas – one gallon of dehydrated peas equals two gallons or more of re-hydrated peas.
Peas are open pollinated and self-fertile, so if you have chosen to grow some nice heirloom peas you can save some seeds for next season and not have to buy more (click here for an article on buying garden seeds). I select several nice large pods (while its tempting to eat these beautiful pods, they will produce the best pea plants next year) and allow them to dry on the vine and turn completely brown. Then collect the dry pea pods, shell the now “pea seed,” and stick it in the freezer for 2-3 days. This will kill off any bugs living in the seed. From there I store pea seed in paper envelopes in a dry dark place for next season. I have read that pea seed will store this way for three years if not longer.
I always make sure to rotate pea seeds in my survival seed kit, but if you are not growing your own garden yet a store bought seed kit made for long term storage may be a better option for you. It is certainly better than having no seeds at all. Click here for a quality survival seed kit designed for long term storage.
Pea Storage Alternatives
If growing peas is not doable for you personally, another frugal option is to purchase frozen peas when they are on sale and put them directly in your dehydrator. No blanching or other treatment is needed, that chore has already been done for you.
Also if you don’t have time to do any of this, or if you would just like to bolster you’re supplies immediately (there is no shame in that, everyone’s circumstances are different) consider purchasing dehydrated or freeze-dried peas for storage. You can find high quality Freeze Dried Peas by clicking here specifically produced for food storage.