Spring Peas Please

I love peas.  Really, any peas….snap, spring, petit, snow.  There’s something about the shape and color that is very happy and reminds me of hot days as a kid.  Spring, also known as English peas have a pretty short season.  English peas are unlike snap peas in that you don’t eat the pod, just the sweet peas inside.  My kids love popping them open, then unzipping them to see how big and how many they got.  Actually when choosing spring peas, you want to stay away from those that are too fat and bulging as they’re full of starch and not as sweet as the smaller pods.

At the beginning of spring pea season I hit the farmer’s market and bought about 8 pounds from Iocopa Farms.  (Unfortunately we weren’t very lucky growing our own peas this year.  The vines are growing, but no peas.)  My kids and I shelled for days.  They really got into it.  My daughter eating them faster than we can shell them.  Really you should shell them quickly after buying and cook or eat them within a few days.  If cooking the English peas, figure that 1 pound will yield 1 cup of shelled peas.   

Besides eating them raw we also made pea puree, spring pea soup, orzo with peas and mint, and curry, herb peas.  The good thing about peas is you can buy them organic and frozen all year long.  This certainly cuts down the time to make a pea dish if you don’t have the time or the willing mini sous chefs to shell with you.  It also allows you to enjoy them year round – in or out of season.  We were able to grow the fresh cilantro and mint that I think pair so well with peas.

Here’s a few pea recipes if you’re heading to the farmer’s market or picking in your own garden now.  Or keep these recipes for the Fall, when you hit the frozen aisle and need a reminder of spring.  Oddly enough some kids like icey, frozen vegetables.  My son loved a bowl of frozen peas right out of the freezer when he was 3 and 4 years old.  I sometimes suggest frozen veggies to parents who say their kids won’t eat veggies.  Try them raw, cooked, and even frozen.  You never know…

Sweet Pea Puree (from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

Give peas a chance!   Many children’s first foray into green vegetables is peas, because of their sweet flavor.  Just be careful not to overcook.  They should be bright green, not drab and gray, like the jarred version.

 1 package (10 ounces) frozen organic peas, or 10 ounces shelled fresh peas

 Steamer Method:

Place frozen or fresh peas in steamer basket set in a pot filled with a small amount (about 1to 2 inches, but not to touch fruit) of lightly boiling water.  Cover tightly for best nutrient retention and steam for 2 to 3 minutes or until peas and tender and bright green.  Rinse peas in cold water to stop cooking.  Add tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid to puree to make smoother and adjust consistency.

Curry & Herb Peas (from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

 The cumin and curry makes this dish an aromatic, but not spicy for those just trying spices.  These peas make a great accompaniment to grilled fish and meats for all ages.   

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon curry powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1/3 cup water

16 ounces fresh or 1 package (16 ounces) frozen, organic peas, thawed

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

 Heat butter in large saucepan over moderate heat.  When foam subsides, add garlic to pan and quickly sauté until light brown.  Stir in curry, cumin, water and peas and simmer until peas are tender and heated throughout, approximately 5 minutes.  Stir in cilantro, if desired.

 Mind your peas!  They will cook quickly.  If they are overcooked, they can become mushy, and lose their bright color and sweet flavor.

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