How to Pick Field Peas

Whether you drive to a U-pick produce farm, or raise them yourself, picking field peas can be a unique outing, the rewards of which are great on the dinner table. For those not familiar with the name field peas, other common names include cowpeas, or black-eyed peas. Here are how fresh field peas are picked.


  1. 1
    Grow, or locate, a U-pick produce grower that allows customers to pick peas in their field. You will want to learn a little bit about the different varieties and their characteristics:
    • Black-eyed peas - these are usually harvested and used dry, rather than fresh and succulent from the garden. A cousin of the black-eyes are pink-eyes, a popular, easy-to-grow field pea common in the south, where they are often called "purple hull peas."
    • Crowder peas - these are usually a green pea that is tightly packed in the shell.
    • Cream peas - these are a lighter colored pea, with a milder flavor than the above mentioned varieties.
    • Zipper peas - these have a fibrous vein along the length of the shell, which, when pulled, makes splitting the shell much easier.
  2. 2
    Prepare yourself for your outing in the pea patch. You may find the weather very warm during the field pea season, so consider wearing light colored clothing and a broad rimmed hat. Other things you might take along to wear or carry once at the farm include:
    • Sturdy boots
    • Long pants
    • Sunscreen
    • Sunglasses
    • Hampers, bags, buckets, or other containers for your peas.
  3. 3
    Enter the field and select a row of peas to pick. Peas are usually planted in rows about 3 feet (91.5 cm) apart. Look for rows that have lots of mature peas, and remember that it is more efficient to pick peas by row, rather than randomly wandering around, so that you can keep track of which pea vines have been harvested. Staying between rows also reduces damage to the plants.
  4. 4
    Step carefully to avoid damaging the pea vines, which often overlap the rows and can be entangled, making travel difficult. Keep your container close by. Use a container that you can set on the ground and that won't overturn easily.
  5. 5
    Here you can see a mature pea compared to two that are not yet filled out.
    Choose the peas which are fully matured and pull them from the stems.
    Most field peas have a series of bulges visible through the shell, indicating fully formed individual peas inside.
  6. 6
    Hold the stem of the plant and pull the peas free of the plant. You can gather several in the plucking hand, then toss them into the bucket to make your efforts more efficient.
  7. 7
    Watch for peas which have obvious insect damage. If you have a choice, choose clean, well-tended fields for your pea-picking expedition.
  8. 8
    Pick the desired amount of peas and carry them home. Keep them in a cool, shaded place until you are ready to shell them.
  9. 9
    Rinse the peas under lots of fresh water, then transfer them into a clean container for shelling. A large, shallow bowl works well for this step. Find a comfortable place, have a seat, and shell away; you will soon learn that picking the peas is only half the work!


  • Shell and either cook or freeze fresh field peas as quickly as possible to preserve their quality. You can also make pea puree for freezing or refrigerating.
  • Avoid pulling peas which are not mature unless you desire snaps with your peas.
  • Be careful with the blooms, as these are the next crop of peas and can be easily knocked off.


  • Field pea fields are home to many insects including spiders, wasps, and bees.
  • Avoid fields where herbicides and insecticides have been applied. Again, ask the farmer.
  • Watch for venomous snakes if they are native to your area. Ask the farmer for advice on the potential for snakes.

Things You'll Need

  • Suitable clothing, insect repellent, and drinking water
  • Container for picking

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