Freezing garden peas is an easy and tasty way to preserve extras from the garden. Learn how to freeze fresh sugar snap peas and snow peas too!
Garden peas are one of those vegetable types that are delicious fresh and most folks enjoy them that way. But when it comes to preserving them, they actually aren’t a candidate for either water bath or pressure canning.
Peas are not acidic enough to be safely water bath canned. And pressure canning turns sugar snap peas and snow peas alike into a pile of mush. Not worthwhile (or safe) for anyone!
Sugar snap and snow peas just aren’t candidates for home canning.
If you want to preserve fresh garden peas for winter, you need to learn how to blanch and freeze them for later.
And you also need to learn how to cook frozen peas, so they don’t lose their texture in the process!
So let me teach you how to freeze fresh sugar snap peas and snow peas as well. I’ll give you some tips on how to cook them too.
Items You’ll Need
- Large bowl for picking peas
- Stockpot with a colander insert
- Kitchen sink with cold running water (or bowl of ice water)
- A normal kitchen colander
- Baking sheet
- Zip lock freezer bag, freezer containers or vacuum sealer
Types of Garden Peas You Can Grow for Freezing
While this tutorial is all about freezing fresh peas, I want to take a moment to outline 3 primary types of pea available to the backyard gardener.
These peas mature the quickest and are eaten for their sweet pod, not the pea seeds inside. Snow peas should be harvested very soon after the pods reach full length. The tiny pea seeds inside aren’t supposed to develop. If they do, your peas will become tough and lose their sweet flavor.
Sugar snap peas
Sugar snap peas are a cross between a snow pea and a shelling pea. They are usually left to mature longer than a snow pea, but not so long as a shelling pea.
The pea seeds inside are usually half developed when they are prime for harvesting and freezing (see image below) Sugar snap peas are extra juicy, because you can consume both pod and delicious peas inside.
Shelling peas, english peas or green hull peas
Shelling peas take the longest to mature. These peas are left on the vine until the pods are swollen and full of round, green pea seeds.
Once they have matured, you split the pods open by hand and remove the round green pea seeds inside for cooking or freezing. Unlike either snow or sugar snap peas, the pods are too tough to eat and are discarded.
Sugar snaps are my favorite garden peas to grow, both because I love the flavor and because you get the most return for your efforts.
How to Harvest Sugar Snap Peas (and Snow Peas)
I like to pick peas before the heat of the summer sun hits them, and I usually harvest into a large bowl or my favorite basket.
Harvesting peas is easy; just pull the pea pod free from the vine and presto!
Knowing when to harvest your garden peas for eating or freezing is important. If they are left on the vine for too long, the pods will become tough and the peas inside will lose their crispness and flavor. Here are some tips for knowing when to harvest sugar snap peas and snow peas alike.
- Pea pods should be tender, crisp and crunchy, without stringiness on the top or bottom side.
- The flavor of your peas should be sweet and bright, without a hint of astringency.
- Garden peas should be bright green; if the color begins to fad, pods are likely reaching the overripe stage.
- Pods should still be flat-ish (particularly for snow peas), not plump and round.
- For snow peas: harvest when pods are thin and seeds are tiny bumps under the tender pod walls.
- For snap peas: pod should be slightly rounded and seeds shouldn’t be larger than your pinky fingernail.
Harvesting Tip: Once your pea harvest comes on, you’ll want to pick peas every 5-7 days so they don’t over ripen and cause the plants to produce less.
Watch the Tutorial
Preparing Sugar Snap Peas
Once you’ve harvested your peas, it’s time to take them indoors and prepare them for freezing. This first step is very easy. All you have to do is remove the stem end of the pea where it connected to the vine.
With snow peas, that’s all you have to do.
However, if you’re working with sugar snap peas that are quite mature, you’ll want to check and see if they have a tough string.
The topside of the pea is where it forms first. If this string is present you’ll want to remove it with the stem end, so your peas will be tender and chewable.
How to Blanch and Cool Whole Peas
Put a large pot of water on to boil. I like to use one with a colander insert, so it’s easy to lift all the peas at once when they are done blanching.
If one isn’t to be had, you can also use a normal stockpot and a slotted spoon.
With your water set to boil, fill your sink with several quarts of water. If your tap doesn’t produce water that is very cold, add lots of ice to the sink, so you have a cold ice water bath to chill your blanched peas in.
Once your water boils, go ahead and add whole peas to the boiling water. Cover with a lid and set your timer. Stir once or twice.
Time Saving Tip: some folks will tell you to work in small batches when freezing tender peas. But I never do and my peas turn out just fine!)
After peas have blanched for the proper length of time, move the pot over to the kitchen sink. Lift the colander insert and let the hot water drain out, then dump your peas into the ice bath to stop the cooking process.
You can swirl them around with your hand to help them chill faster.
Use a smaller kitchen colander to lift your peas out and let them drain for several minutes in the second sink.
Some folks like to spread them out on drying trays (aka cooling racks) or on a clean kitchen towel.
How to Freeze Sugar Snap Peas
Once most of the water has been drained from the peas, it’s time to freeze them. There are several ways you can go about freezing sugar snap peas (or snow peas).
Freeze Bag Your Peas
You can place fresh peas in freezer bags while they are still quite moist and freeze in meal size portions. It doesn’t matter if the frozen peas stick together if you’re removing them all at once.
Flash Freeze Peas
If you want to freeze peas in large bags and remove meal size portions as needed to feed your family, you’ll want to flash freeze them.
Do this by spreading peas out in a single layer on a baking sheet or tray before putting them in the deep freeze.
Once your peas are frozen solid, you can use a metal spatula to remove and bag them up in bulk.
Use Freezer Containers
Freezer containers can be a good choice if you plan to use your peas in a few month’s time. For long term storage, be sure to use 1) an airtight container and 2) a freezer-safe container too.
Vacuum Seal Peas
If you plan to store your peas in the freezer for a long, long time, vacuum sealing them (whether you bag directly or flash freeze first) will keep them fresh for longer.
How to Cook Frozen Peas
Frozen peas can go directly a cast iron skillet and are delicious cooked with butter or olive oil and salt. Herbs will add extra flavor.
When preparing peas as a side dish, remember they were partially cooked from the blanching process. If you cover your skillet with a lid, frozen peas shouldn’t need more than 5 minutes of cook time.
If you plan to add them into a mixed vegetable dish, add frozen peas last so they don’t go soft and mushy on you.
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Do I need to sort peas according to size before blanching?
No. Some vegetables (like beets or asparagus), need to be sorted to size so they can be blanched accordingly. But peas are easy. You can blanch small-podded peas in with medium peas or even large sizes and they’ll turn out just fine.
What should I freeze my sugar snap peas in?
The best option for long term freezer life is a sealed plastic bag with the air forced out. This could be zip lock or better yet, a vacuum sealed bag.
How long will my peas last before they get freezer burn?
It depends on how well your peas have been packaged. If you want 6+ months of freezer life, I recommend storing your peas in a freezer bag or vacuum seal bag, so most of the oxygen can be removed. Do this, and your peas should last 12 months in the freezer.
If I don’t want to freeze peas, can I preserve them in the pressure canner instead?
No. While you can safely pressure can shelled peas (aka fresh pea seed without the pod), there are no tested and approved recipes for preserving peas in the pod.
How to Freeze Sugar Snap Peas and Snow Peas
- large bowl for picking peas
- stockpot with colander insert
- kitchen sink with cold water (or ice water)
- kitchen colander
- baking sheet
- freezer bags or vacuum sealer
- a bowl of sugar snap peas (or snow peas)
- Harvest peas in the morning, before the sun's heat warms them up.
- Bring the harvest indoors and set a large pot of water on to boil.
- Remove the stem end of peas and string, if needed.
- Fill the sink with cold, cold water. Add ice if needed.
- Place trimmed peas in boiling water and blanch for 1 minute.
- Move pot to the sink and lift colander insert, letting water drain off.
- Dump hot peas into cold water and swirl to chill faster.
- Lift peas with a kitchen colander and let them drain in the second sink.
- Bag peas in meal size portions, label and freeze, or spread in a single layer on a baking pan and flash freeze, then label and bag.
- To cook: add butter to a hot cast iron skillet and add frozen peas. Cover and cook for 2-5 minutes or until you're happy with the texture. Salt and serve hot.