Fresh Garden Peas

very close up of ripe green peas and pods
(Image credit: Martin Barraud / Getty Images)

When it comes to gardening, I have a guilty pleasure. My dirty little secret is simple. I love eating fresh English peas straight from the garden. When it comes time to harvest garden peas, few ever make it to the table. So why, you may ask, is this a bad thing?

Can You Eat English Peas Raw

I was surprised to learn many folks question whether it's safe to eat English peas raw. Having done so since I was a child, I can attest that raw peas are not only edible, but delicious. Their juicy sweetness is unrivaled and can be quite addictive. I have to say this is one veggie that definitely loses flavor when cooked.

That being said, it's important to note that I'm talking about fresh English peas (Pisum sativum) and not the ornamental "Sweet Pea" flower (Lathyrus odoratus). Although both are from the legume family, the seeds or "peas" of the ornamental Sweet Pea are poisonous. Sweet pea seeds can cause paralysis, labored breathing and convulsions when consumed in large quantities.

English peas, sometimes referred to as shelling or garden peas, are not poisonous. However eating English peas raw can cause certain problems for at-risk individuals. Fresh garden peas contain both lectins and phytic acid. Lectins can cause gas and bloating, while phytic acid interferes with the absorption of minerals. 

For most people, this is not a problem if fresh garden peas are consumed in moderation and for the short duration when these tasty treats are in season. Which brings us back to the question at hand. Why are peas my guilty pleasure?

It's certainly not because peas lack nutritional value like my other guilty pleasures, namely cake, cookies and chocolate. In fact, peas are one of the best sources of plant proteins. Along with their high fiber content, fresh garden peas have a low glycemic level and work as a natural appetite suppressant. 

Pea Hoarding

I can only wish a thick slice of chocolate cake had those same effects on my body. No, the reason I find consuming English peas raw to be my dirty little secret is that I don't share. I even make excuses to walk back to the garden during pea harvest season for the sole reason of sneaking peas. 

I suppose I could harvest English peas for the entire family to enjoy. But like the infamous little red hen, I do all the work and I reap all the benefits. Is this selfish? Definitely! And oddly enough, I don't feel this way about the other veggies I grow. I gladly pile my grown children's arms with peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers when they come to visit. But never peas.

Perhaps, this is because fresh English peas are, by far, my favorite garden veggie to grow and harvest. And is it really so wrong of me to hoard them? No, I think not.

Since you've worked so hard in the garden this summer we want to show off the fruits (and veggies) of your labor! We invite you to join the Gardening Know How Virtual Harvest Show by submitting photos of your harvest!

Laura Miller

Laura Miller has been gardening all her life. Holding a degree in Biology, Nutrition, and Agriculture, Laura's area of expertise is vegetables, herbs, and all things edible. She lives in Ohio.