Monday, May 21, 2007

Plentiful Peas

As promised … peas!

Peas do not fair well in the hot summer sun – the best time is spring! There are more than a thousand varieties of peas. We mainly enjoy three types: the Snow Pea in which the pea itself does not get very big, so you can enjoy the pod and all; the Snap or Sugar Pea which also can be enjoyed whole, but you need to zip the strings off; and the English or Garden Pea which has a tough pod so you shuck the peas out.

The English word for pea was originally pease. People thought that this was the plural form and began dropping the –se, forming the word we use today. Peas are one of the earliest food crops cultivated. Archeologists have found evidence near the border of Burma and Thailand that dates back to 9750 BC .

In Chinese history, an emperor in 5000 BC is said to have discovered peas. He wandered across the land looking for plants for food or medicine. Possible plants were given to first a dog, then a servant to see if they would survive. If both survived, the plant was deemed edible. Lucky dog and servant (that time)!

Peas are part of the legume family, making them high in protein and fiber and low in fat. They also are a good source of antioxidants and calcium, and can help lower your cholesterol. However, peas are a starchy vegetable with a high glycemic index meaning that your body absorbs them quickly, raising your blood sugar levels. So remember, everything in moderation.

Peas are grown in North America, Europe, India, Australia and Russia. If you are thinking of growing your own, it is said it is good luck to plant your peas on St. Patrick’s Day. Peas grow in two forms, dwarf (or small plants) and vines. Vines make a great climber to add a trellis in front of a fence or on a patio.

In the 1920’s, frozen vegetables were introduced into the market. This was a huge advantage for pea farmers. They could harvest the peas and freeze them almost immediately. This prevents the sugars in the peas from turning into starch, giving us the flavor of freshly-picked peas.

Frozen peas are a staple in my freezer. I love adding them at the last minute to rice, pasta, soup and stew dishes. I add them at the very end still frozen, allowing them just enough time to defrost but without losing their crispness (about 3-5 minutes). I love the feel of the peas popping in my mouth.

Another great way to enjoy peas is sauté with butter and chopped fresh mint. You could add some finely diced shallots, mushrooms or ham or bacon to the peas as well.


Creamed Peas

Elixir of Fresh Peas (soup) "This pale green froth of a soup is the essence of fresh peas."

Sweet Pea Soup with Lemon-Pepper Cream

Link to list of several dozen Garden Pea Recipes

1 comment:

Erin said...

For the record, I love peas. Just thought I'd say that.