Botanical name (Genus species): Pisum sativum
Also known as: Snow peas, snap peas, podding peas, shelling peas, dwarf or bush peas, climbing peas.
Planting: What do we need to know before planting for seed production?
Pollination method: Peas are self-pollinating. Their flowers never open. This means you don’t have to do anything to ensure your seed does not cross.
Isolation: Try to keep varieties 2 to 5m apart. Make sure climbers can’t travel along the trellis to intertwine with another variety.
Population size: Viable seed can be saved from a single plant. It is better practice to save from at least 5 plants.
Grow peas as for eating, there are no special cultivation requirements for seed saving. As the pods are left to mature on the plant the ground space is needed for slightly longer than when they are just grown for eating.
Selection: What are we looking for in good seed plants?
The things to look for are plant height; flower colour; pod colour, shape and size; seed colour and size; and disease resistance. Plants that vary from the variety being conserved should not have seed collected from them.
Harvest: How and when do we harvest for seed?
Leave the pods on the plants until they have dried. Bush or dwarf varieties can be harvested when most of the pods have dried off by cutting the entire plant and placing it on a tarp to finish drying. Climbing varieties will likely need each pod to be hand picked from the trellis as it becomes dry enough.
Be vigilant and collect any dried pods before rain. Once dried on the plant, significant rain very easily causes mould to grow on the pods and seeds.
Processing: How do we separate the seed from the plant material?
Pea seeds look like dried out peas. Once the pods are dry they can be broken open to get the seeds out. This can be done by hand for each pod. Alternatively the usual methods of walking on or using a threshing machine can be tried. If the seed is dry it is difficult to damage it by threshing. Do not be tempted to try threshing the plant material before it is dried as the seed could be damaged while it is sill moist and soft.
Storage: What do we need to do to successfully store the seed?
After processing it is a good idea to keep the seed in a paper bag in a dry location to ensure that any moisture being held in the seed has a chance to dry off. Peas are large seeds and can take a surprisingly long time to dry out fully internally.
Dryness can be tested by hitting a sample one with a hammer. If it shatters it is dry enough, if is squashes at all then it is still holding moisture. Have a look at our video on dryness if you need more help with this part.
There is a fair likelihood that insect pests will have laid their eggs in or on the seed. To stop them in their tracks one of the easiest methods of control is to freeze the seed for a few days. To do this the seed must be absolutely dry first. It then must be placed in an airtight container – like a glass jar. Before going into the freezer for 48 to 72 hours to kill pests and their eggs.
Seed is best stored in an airtight container where it is dark, cool and dry.
Contributors: Liz Worth, Julie Davies