Texas Living

Rediscover the Joy of Fresh Garden Peas

By Peter Simek 9.17.20

Certain foods immediately conjure feelings and memories. Apple pie baking in the oven may bring back warm, autumnal family gatherings; roasted rosemary potatoes may summon the feeling of a crisp, cold winter’s day. These experiences are how food helps shape our traditions and give form to each passing year.

Many food traditions are deeply established, passed down from generation to generation. But there’s nothing to prevent you from adding new ideas and traditions that can link the experience of food with the memory of a season.

One suggestion: fresh peas in autumn. Clear away any negative connotations you may have of the lowly pea. If your experience of peas is of bags of frozen mush and spartan childhood dinners, then encountering fresh peas will be like discovering a new vegetable altogether. And with a little planning, a small amount of effort, and no shortage of creativity, you can both grow your own peas and introduce a new delicious tradition to your table.

Growing Peas

The secret to great food is freshness, and there’s hardly anything as fresh as vegetables you grow right in your own garden. Peas are a generous and forgiving crop, offering plenty to harvest with minimal care and attention.

Timing: The trick to growing peas in Texas is getting the timing right. Early fall is the ideal time to grow peas in Texas, though you may also plant them in early spring. Peas enjoy cooler climates, and when the temperature rises higher than 70 degrees, it can stunt their growth.

Sunlight: Plant seeds in light, well-draining soil with full sun or partial shade. Peas require around six hours a day of direct sunlight.

Space: Pea plants will grow a vine that can stretch upwards of 5 or 6 feet, so make sure you properly space your plantings and provide a trellis for your plants to vine.

Care: Water the plants regularly and keep an eye out for pests. Not only will spider mites attack your plants, but once peas start forming, mice and bunnies will come looking for a snack. Use these homemade gardening hacks to keep away pests.

fresh peas
Imani Chet Lytle

Shelling Peas

Shelling fresh peas is easy and can be done quickly as long as you keep a few tricks and tips in mind. The two sides of the pea pod are look similar, but there is a key difference. On the side closest to the vine, the stem bends backward toward the side of the pod that has a small indentation. If you pinch the stem on this side and pull it backward, the thin, veinlike structure of the pod will “unzip,” easily revealing a collection of little peas inside.

fresh peas
Imani Chet Lytle

Fresh Garden Pea Salad Recipe

There are many ways to enjoy fresh peas, from simply steaming and serving them with a little salt and olive oil to tossing them in your favorite pasta sauce to liven it up. One of the greatest ways to eat peas is in a fresh salad. This salad is easy to make, only requires a few ingredients, and allows the flavor of the fresh peas to take center stage.


  • 2 cups fresh peas
  • 2 cups spinach
  • ½ cup feta
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced herbs (parsley, mint, chives)


  • Shell and rinse your peas; blanch them in boiling water. Let cool, then toss with spinach. In a small bowl, mix lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs to make your dressing. Dress your salad and add crumbled feta.
  • You can serve the salad straight away, or you can place it in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes. The time in the refrigerator will help the flavors combine but won’t rob the peas of their fresh snap.

Give yourself the gift of more seasonal produce with our guide to growing an herb garden.

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