As backyard farmers, we know that gardening is only half of the work. Harvesting, storing, and cooking are also essential steps in the entire process. So, if you’ve found during cooking that your peas don’t taste great, you might be wondering where things went wrong.
Your fresh peas may taste like dirt or be bitter because:
- You’ve used inconsistent watering habits.
- The peas haven’t been washed.
- The peas grew too fast.
- The peas aren’t ripe or they’re over ripe.
- The peas caught an illness.
- The peas have spoiled.
Below, I’ll list what may have caused your peas to taste dirty, bitter, or outright bad. Then, I’ll discuss the ideal growing conditions for your peas and give you some tips on assessing your garden plants to determine what went wrong.
Reasons Why Your Peas May Taste Bad
When most people describe a “dirt” taste, they may be referring to a slightly earthy or bitter taste when they take a bite.
A bitter plant isn’t uncommon. Most vegetables begin to taste bitter if they’ve been harvested too late and may taste earthy or mushy if harvested too early. Being buried in the dirt also doesn’t help; carrots often taste like dirt because they live in them.
Hopefully, you’ve cleaned your vegetables thoroughly, and actual dirt isn’t the cause of a dirty taste. If you’ve cleaned them thoroughly and things aren’t tasting great, there are other possibilities.
Some things that may have caused your peas to taste bad, bitter, or like dirt are:
- Your watering habits
- Not washing your peas correctly
- Growing them too fast (or in the wrong season)
- Harvesting too soon or too late
- An illness or disease
- Your peas spoiling (due to age or not being stored properly)
The most important thing to think about is whether your plant tastes spoiled or not. As long as there are no other signs of disease or rotting, your peas are probably safe to eat. A fruit or a vegetable tasting a little dirty, bad, or bitter isn’t uncommon.
Let’s dive into each of these possibilities.
1. You’ve Used Inconsistent Watering Habits
Inconsistent watering practices may cause peas to taste bad. This is the most common cause of peas tasting bitter or the texture not being correct.
Peas are a cold-weather plant, so they prefer shade and low temperatures. Your peas prefer an inch (2.54 cm) of water a week. If it’s really hot in your area, they may need more.
If you hadn’t adjusted your watering since the spring season (when water was slower to evaporate from the ground), and your peas weren’t so thirsty, this may be your problem.
I’d highly suggest the following to support your watering habits:
- A moisture meter: This device will tell you if your plants are getting enough water and what the temperature is like underground.
- An irrigation system: Irrigation systems are the most consistent way to the water. They water your plants with the same amount of water at the same time every day or every week.
- Shades: These will help your plant not be so exposed to the sun or high temperatures if you live in a warmer climate or have planted your peas too late.
Peas are finicky about the weather, which is totally out of your control. While some gardeners can sow directly into the dirt and let the plant do its thing, you might find people in your area have an easier time growing their peas in a pot to move them around in warm weather.
2. The Peas Haven’t Been Washed
I hate to be that person, but I have to ask: do your peas taste dirty because they are covered in dirt?
Eating things straight from the garden is a personal choice. Sometimes they taste even tastier when they’re fresh off the vine. However, if you’ve been eating your peas without washing them, you shouldn’t be surprised by their bad taste, especially if you use compost, mulch, or fertilizer.
To wash your peas the right way, don’t do it until you’re ready to eat them. Shake off what you can as you harvest, and then store them immediately. You can put them in cool water and use a food-safe peroxide or wash them a little while before eating them to get rid of as much excess as possible.
3. The Peas Grew Too Fast
Peas grown in the wrong season or temperature may taste bad. As mentioned above, peas are typically a cool weather plant. Most people plant them at the beginning of spring before putting any of their other plants in. Others plant as the season begins to come to a close.
If it’s been really warm out, you may have noticed your plants growing at an exciting rate. However, growing faster doesn’t always mean growing better. Peas that have grown too fast and ripened in the sun may taste bitter.
4. The Peas Aren’t Ripe or They’re Over Ripe
Peas harvested too early or too late may taste bad. It’s typical for vegetables to taste more bitter the longer you leave them on the plant. Harvesting early may also make them taste bitter, mushy, or even dirty.
You should harvest your pea plants when they are 2-3 inches long (5.08-7.62 cm) and look swollen. This means the peas are about ready to come out of the pod.
Another good sign is blooming flowers. After you see the flowers pop up on your pea plant, you can expect a harvest within the next three weeks.
5. The Peas Caught an Illness
If there are any other signs, your plants may have caught an illness. Be wary of molding, discoloration, strange shapes, or little holes.
Peas are susceptible to:
- Root rot, caused by too much watering and not enough drainage
- Mildew, resulting from not letting plants dry off between waterings
- Blights of the ascochyta and bacterial variety
You should not eat your peas if you notice any other signs of disease.
6. The Peas Have Spoiled
Of course, if you take a pea off of the plant and taste it, harvesting and storage aren’t likely your problems. It’s still possible, though! If things have been extra damp in your area and your plant seems to have struggled through it, and you waited too long to harvest, it’s possible they spoiled right on the vine.
It’s more likely a spoiling situation if you’ve taken your peas out of the fridge and found they taste bad. Harvesting and storing correctly are essential to the integrity of the flavors, not to mention the longevity of your harvest.
Assessing the Cause of Peas That Taste Like Dirt
If you’re still having trouble determining what has made your peas taste like dirt, don’t fret. There are tons of ways to pinpoint the cause of your troubles.
To assess the cause of peas that taste like dirt, consider the ideal conditions for growing peas and make sure your peas get what they need. You could also use a soil test, pH test, moisture meter, or other tests to check in on moisture, temperature, pH, and nutrients.
Let’s talk about ideal growing conditions and beneficial tools to have on hand.
Ideal Growing Conditions for Peas
Before you decide that you’re not made for pea-planting or that peas are suddenly your least favorite vegetable, check in on how you’ve grown your peas. The ideal conditions for pea growing are not only about watering or harvesting at the right time.
Ideal conditions include:
A Cool Growing Season
Peas are a cool weather plant. They do best in spring, late fall, or even early winter. However, they need to be coved before frost. Their preferred temperature is between 60 and 75 °F (15.55-23.89 °C).
A Sunny Spot in the Garden
Peas need full sun, but they don’t need full temperatures. Check the temperature in your garden as you check the sun coverage. You might find that some spots in your garden get plenty of sun without the heat.
The Correct Amount of Water
As mentioned above, peas need one inch (2.54 cm) of water a week. This isn’t all, though. They also need well-draining soil. If the soil becomes compacted or holds on to the water for too long, this could affect your plants.
The Ideal pH Level
Peas like slightly acidic soil, between 6.0 and 7.0 pH. This pH allows peas to absorb all the nutrients they need to grow.
Plants That Pair Well
All plants have companion plants and non-helpful plants. You should try to grow your peas next to beans, carrots, celery, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, radishes, spinach, tomatoes, and turnips. You should not plant your pea plants near onion, garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions, or chives.
If you’re lacking in any of these areas, this could cause a dirty taste.
Using pH Tests to Assess Nutrient Levels
You could use a pH testing kit to assess the nutrient levels in your garden. Online and in-store testing kits usually require you to mix some soil in with water to see your garden’s pH. Some more advanced ones will tell you exactly what your garden lacks, such as the Luster Leaf Rapitest (available on Amazon.com).
However, if you have the time and the resources, you could also send your soil to a professional lab.
Using Moisture Meters to Assess Water Intake
Moisture meters are an amazing tool to assess water intake. Some moisture meters will also tell you about your garden’s temperature, sunlight, and pH. All you have to do is stick the moisture meter into the dirt, and it will tell you what’s going on in your plant soil.
Using Thermometers to Assess Soil Temperature
With peas, in particular, it may be a good idea to invest in a soil temperature reader. Peas prefer a temperature between 60 and 75 °F (15.55-23.89 °C), and you might be surprised at how hot your soil gets. Your soil may be hotter than you think- especially if you have any metal roofing on your shed or park your car near your garden.
Peas that taste like dirt aren’t uncommon, but they’re also not desirable. Additionally, storing in the wrong way can make things rot faster and taste dirty. Check in on your gardening habits to assess the cause of the bitter or dirty taste. It could be your watering habits, the type of soil you’re using, or even how you harvest your peas.
If you’re a big pea eater, you should consider investing in your pea plants and adding a few things to your gardening, harvesting, or storing toolbox. Peas can definitely be worth growing.