Everything to Know About Cooking and Shopping for In Season Peas
The best way to shop? With the seasons. So, every 2 weeks at Kitchen Stories, we’ll be highlighting a different in-season ingredient along with 3 new recipes. To market, we go!
Tiny, round, and green, the pea is still often thought of as nothing more than a side dish in most kitchens, but these easy to access, sweet little spheres can be more flavorsome and versatile than you think. Whether you’re preparing a simple pea-laden pasta, a smooth pea and mint soup, or an all-green-everything salad bowl, there’s no better time than now to give the pea a closer look.
1. Hello, My Name is Pea
While there’s no conclusive evidence to verify or refute the claim, it’s thought that the pea originated in and around central Asia and the Middle East in countries like Turkey, Jordan, and Syria. Now enjoyed around the world, there are thousands of cultivated and wild pea varieties today. Only about 5% of the peas grown around the world are eaten fresh, as we usually find them frozen or canned, but fresh peas are delicious and worth the extra effort when in season.
The most common varieties of peas you’re likely to come across are: green (also known as garden, sweet, or English) peas, snow peas, and sugar snap peas. Green peas are the peas you’ll buy frozen and canned, as the pods are usually removed and discarded. The firm, round peas can be eaten either raw or cooked. Snow peas are known for their thin pods with very small peas nesting inside. Eaten whole in things like stir-fries and curries, or raw as a crudité, it’s important to remove the tough fibers along the seams of the pod before eating.
Sugar snap peas, also called snap peas, combine the best of both the garden pea and the snow pea. The whole pod is eaten both raw or cooked and has a crisp texture, and super sweet, pea flavor. The peas inside are fully formed and can be removed and eaten alongside the pods, but there is still a tough fiber at the seam that should be removed from each pod before eating.
The shared characteristics of all peas? They are slightly sweet, a bit starchy, and loaded with protein, vitamins C, A, and B-6, and fiber.
2. When and How to Buy Peas
Fresh, snow, and sugar snap peas are in season from June until August and you’ll most likely find them in farmers markets or larger supermarkets. To make sure the peas you buy are fresh take a closer look on the shells. They should be shiny, firm and bright green. A yellow or blotchy peel is a sign to stay away, as those peas are probably old.
Always keep in mind that garden peas weigh much more with their shell then when shelled. If a recipe calls for half a pound (two-hundred and fifty grams) of shelled garden peas, buy at least one and a half pounds (seven-hundred and fifty grams) and follow our tips for shelling and prepping your peas. (link to pea how-to)
3. How to Store Peas
Compared to frozen peas which seem to last forever (and make really great snacks right out of the freezer!), fresh ones are not made for long-term storage. You should plan on preparing them as soon as possible after buying, but when wrapped in a wet paper towel, unpeeled green peas, snow peas, and sugar snaps can remain fresh for 2 – 3 days in the vegetable cooler of your fridge.
After shelling your peas (if necessary), they’ll soon lose their fresh taste and can take on a floury, mealy texture, so it’s best to peel them right before preparing them. Alternatively, you can blanch them in salt water, put them in ice water, and freeze them for homemade frozen green peas that you can store in the freezer for up to 12 months.
4. How to Prepare Peas
Peas, though simple, are versatile, going well with grilled fish, all kinds of meats, risottos or creamy sauces. They add a bright pop of color and sweetness to soups, purées, and dips, and make a good base for things like croquettes or falafel.
Preparing green peas is easy but requires some time for shelling. If you bought very young pods, you don’t need to shell them. Cook them in simmering water and the seeds will be released and can be skimmed with a slotted spoon. A pinch of sugar added to the cooking water will help them keep that bright green color.
Snow and sugar snap peas can eaten directly in their pods, as long as the tough fiber is removed, and make excellent additions to stir-fries, soups, curries, and hashes. For an easy snack, simply wash and eat them as is! Even a simple dip or dressing could be in order, or let the delicately sweet flavors and bright crispness of the pea pods speak for themselves.
5. What to Make Next
All week long, we’ll be featuring new pea recipes on Kitchen Stories. Check back to see what’s new, then try one for yourself! Here’s where to start:
Published on June 3, 2018