With their crisp shells, sweet, creamy flavor, and jewel-like shape and color, peas are delicious, nutritious and easy to prepare in a variety of delightful ways.
Peas are members of the legume family, plants that bear pods enclosing fleshy seeds. But unlike most legumes, peas are green, and you can buy them fresh at the market – if you know where to look. About 95 percent of the peas available in stores are frozen or canned, because their sugars turn so quickly to starch after being picked.
Sweet green peas are sometimes available in their pods, but you’ll need to shell them before eating. If choosing between frozen or canned sweet green peas, frozen are preferable since they are shelled and frozen within a few hours of being picked to seal in their nutrients and vibrant green color. The process of canning peas, which often includes adding salt and sugar, can create a dull color and mushy texture.
When selecting snow peas or sugar-snap peas (which are a cross between snow and green peas), look for firm, crisp pods with smooth skin.
Green peas are a fabulous fresh vegetable source of protein, second only to lima beans. A 100-calorie serving of peas (about 3/4 cup) contains more protein than a whole egg or a tablespoon of peanut butter. Rich in vitamin K1, folic acid and vitamin B6, peas help keep your bones healthy, and their combination of folic acid, B vitamins and iron helps boost energy and improve cardiovascular health. An excellent source of good carbs, peas also contain a significant amount of cancer-fighting flavonoids and antioxidant-rich vitamin C. Snow peas are lower in protein than sweet green peas but provide a bit more iron and twice the calcium.
- Fresh, unwashed peas should be stored in an unsealed container or perforated bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to three days to preserve texture and nutrient content. When kept at room temperature, about half of peas’ sugar content will turn to starch within six hours.
- To store peas longer than three days, blanch and freeze them. To blanch, plunge the peas into boiling water for one to two minutes and then immerse them in cold water.
- When preparing snow peas, cut off the tips of both ends of the pods. To prepare sugar-snap peas, remove the ends, as well as the chewy strings running down both sides of the pods.
You can eat all types of peas raw, blanched, sautéed, boiled (for about five minutes using as little water as possible to retain vitamin C) or steamed (one to two minutes shelled; two to three minutes in a pod).
- Include sweet green peas in hot or cold soups, risottos, green salads, and egg or chicken salad.
- Steam or sauté sweet green peas with mushrooms and pearl onions for a delicious side dish.
- For an elegant and edible garnish, try pea shoots (also called tendrils). They are the leaves and shoots of immature pea plants.
- Dried split peas cook quickly, and there is no need to soak them prior to making a soup.
Fresh Peas and Shrimp Salad
Presented by Conscious Cuisine ® Makes 8 servings Salad 2 cups fresh shucked peas, lightly steamed and cooled 3 cups cooked medium shrimp, deveined and chopped (about 1 pound) 1 cup chopped tomatoes (about one medium) 1/4 cup chopped red onion (about half of a small onion) 1/4 cup minced fresh tarragon Dressing 1 cup sour cream 3 tbs. fresh lime juice (about two small) 3/4 tsp. sea salt 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper For the salad: In a mixing bowl, combine all of the salad ingredients. Mix well and refrigerate. For the dressing: Using a small mixing bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Stir vigorously until smooth. Fold dressing into shrimp mixture. Refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to serving. Per serving (3/4 cup): Calories 180; Protein 17 g; Total Fat 7 g; Saturated Fat 0.5 g; Carbohydrates 10 g; Sugar 2 g; Dietary Fiber 1 g; Cholesterol 125 mg; Sodium 360 mg
Chilled English Pea and Mint Soup
Presented by Conscious Cuisine®
Makes 8 servings
1/4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion (about one medium)
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
6 cups shelled fresh or frozen green peas (two 1-pound bags)
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tbs. julienned fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup plain, fat-free yogurt
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Plain, fat-free yogurt (optional)
Mint sprigs (optional)
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook until the onion has softened, about 2 minutes. Add the peas and cook 1 minute, then add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the peas have softened and are still bright green, 8 to 10 minutes.
Carefully ladle the soup, mint leaves and yogurt into a blender and process until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer or a colander lined with cheesecloth to remove any pulp. Season with the salt and white pepper. Chill for 1 hour. Serve the soup cold, garnished with a dollop of yogurt, if using, and a mint sprig.
Per serving (1 cup): Calories 120; Protein 7 g; Total Fat 0.5 g; Saturated Fat 0 g; Carbohydrates 22 g; Dietary Fiber 6 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 290 mg