“Just can’t get the kids interested in their peas? Start off with some sliced carrots in the pan, adding the peas during the last few minutes of cooking and announce that you’ll be dining on Keys and Parrots.”
This is a great tip from Karen Ranz, a volunteer testing and tasting recipes from our Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.
Here, we’ve got a simple recipe for peas, as well as growing, storage and prep tips from Vermont Fresh.
Meatless Monday Recipe: Simple Peas
- 2 Cups shelled fresh or frozen peas
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- Pinch of sugar
- Several leaves of fresh mint cut in fine shreds (optional)
In a sauce pan, just cover the peas with water, add salt, and cook covered until just heated through, about 3 minutes. Strain and toss with butter and optional mint. Serve immediately.
“Petit pois” are tiny, young peas which is what bags in the freezer section will call them. These will be naturally sweet and won’t need the pinch of sugar. However, if the peas are older, then the natural sugars may have converted into starch. In that case, a pinch of sugar will improve their flavor. If your peas are fresh from the garden or the market, taste one raw and you’ll be able to tell if they’re young and sweet or mature.
Peas, like beans, are legumes, meaning they have pods that split open to reveal a row of seeds attached to one side. The seeds of legumes are the part that we eat, sometimes once they are mature (as in the case of dried beans) and sometimes when they are immature, which is the case for peas. Fresh peas can generally be divided into three categories: shell peas, snap peas, and snow peas. Snow peas (flat) are eaten whole, pod and all, before the inner peas are very developed. Snap peas are also eaten whole, but the pods are rounder with larger peas inside. Shell peas are stripped from the shell once the inner peas are round and plump—these are the peas that are familiar to almost everybody as the round green peas that can be found frozen or canned in any supermarket. Peas are an ancient crop that date back to 7000 BCE (Before the Common Era). They were eaten by both the Greeks and the Romans and have been a traditional springtime treat throughout written history.
Peas love cool, wet, springtime weather and are often the first crop a gardener plants outside. They should be direct seeded as soon as the soil can be worked. Peas are frost tolerant, but will germinate best when the soil has warmed slightly. Depending on the type of pea, it is likely that you will need to provide them with some fencing or trellising to climb up. Plant seeds about 1 inch deep and 1 inch apart from each other. Keep well-watered. Harvest shell and snap peas once the pods have filled out but before the taste is starchy and bitter (sample a few peas if you aren’t sure). Snow peas should be harvested when the pods are still flattish and are several inches in length. Some varieties will continue to yield with regular harvesting. Peas fix nitrogen into the soil, making them a good crop to rotate around your garden.
Peas do not store especially well and are best eaten as soon as possible after harvesting. The sugars in peas turn to starch rapidly after picking, especially at warm temperatures. If not being eaten right away, peas should be stored in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, tightly wrapped in plastic.
Rinse pea pods in cold water. Snap off the stem end with your fingers and pull off the stringy fiber on the back side. For snap and snow peas, that is sufficient. For shell peas, squeeze open the pod, then push out the peas with your thumb. Peas are delicious both raw and cooked.
Peas are high in protein, fiber, and carbohydrates as well as various vitamins and minerals, including iron and Vitamin C. Peas contain several phytochemicals that act as antioxidants.
To receive more recipes and tips on your favorite fruits and vegetables, download Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.