As gardeners, we are strong believers in the need to leave a portion of the crop in the garden so it can go to seed for next year. GASP! In a world of GMO contracts for seed the home gardener has no problem harvesting seeds from their organic and heirloom variety veggies without the seed police knocking on your door.[locks door]
Snap peas and sugar snap peas have a pretty good life arc to follow if you plan to keep for next year. You can harvest them throughout the middle summer here in the north(Minnesota) and, come the dog days of August, the pea pods change in thickness and color to let you know they are ready for seed harvesting.
Ripe and ready snap peas have a good even color to them. Sugar snap peas tend to be rounder but as the season rolls on you’ll find they might been smaller and thinner as the plant reaches the end of it’s life cycle. They still taste good and have that juicy crispness to the pod when you bite into it.
Over ripe pea pods will develop a varied color scheme and get thinner as the moisture content of the pod dissipates. Some of them might still be edible but once you get to the brown little buggers at the bottom of the above picture, they are definitely ready for seed harvesting.
In the two dimensional world of your video screen it is hard to compare the two images so we also took a picture of the progression from ripe, to over-ripe, to leathery seed pouch.
The one on the left has smaller peas and a thick pod surrounding it to hold it’s sweet juicy goodness. The middle one, while still edible, has lost a lot of moisture in the pod itself and the peas are bigger. The one on the right is an ideal target for next years seeds.
Despite the fact that a lot of the moisture is gone by the time you harvest the old ones, you will find that they need extra time to dry before you seal them up in a dry bag for next year. We just leave them on the counter on a paper towel for a couple weeks but you can figure out what works for you.
As much as we love to eat fresh sugar snap peas out of the garden, keeping a bunch around for next year will only “sweeten” your investment of time and energy even more.