Similar to common garden peas, field peas have pale green leaves that consist of three leaflets and a vine-like tendril. Peas generally look bushy and tangled, with many thin vine-like branches that cling together as the plants mature. Pea flowers are typically large and white. They grow into pods that hold 4-9 individual pea seeds. Pea pods mature and turn brown from the lowest hanging pods up, so if being harvested for seed, the bottom pods will be brown, the middle pods tan, the upper pods yellow, and the plant will have very little green before harvest. In Montana, producers usually plant peas in the same field as a small grain like oats or barley, to be used for hay. Field peas are a cool-weather crop, and do best in temperatures between 50 and 65 degrees (F), and are relatively drought-tolerant.


People across the world eat field peas. Unlike garden peas which are harvested and eaten while green, field peas are harvested and marketed after they are dry. However, most farmers in Montana grow peas for hay, silage, or forage. Most hay peas are planted with a small grain and are harvested while green. Peas add considerable nutrients and protein to small grain hay.

Central Montana Field Peas

Scientific Name

Pisum sativum

Growing Season

Planted late March to mid-April. Harvested (for seed) 85-100 days after planting, late July. Harvested earlier for hay.


7.234 million hundredweight (cwt) in Montana

Did You Know?

  • A hundredweight (cwt) equals 100 pounds.
  • Montana is the number one producer of peas in the nation.
  • Peas are a nitrogen-fixer, meaning that they add nitrogen to the soil, meaning that after planting peas, farmers can use less nitrogen-based fertilizer.
  • Montana State University encourages farmers to include peas in crop rotations to add nitrogen to the soil.
  • Peas are a legume, like alfalfa or beans.