Peas have been cultivated for millennia, beginning in India and moving west through the Near East and Europe. There are three main types of peas: shell, sugar snap, and snow. Pea shoots, the leaves and tendrils of pea plants, can also be eaten. Peas are best when consumed fresh as their sugar quickly converts to starch after harvest. Peas are a great source of vitamins A, Bs, C, and K, and also contain good amounts of iron, potassium, and phosphorous. Moreover, peas are high in protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.
Consume as soon as possible after harvest. Peas can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, though some sweetness and crisp texture will be lost. For longer-term storage, blanch peas for 2 minutes (shell shell peas first) and freeze in airtight bags.
- Shell peas: Add shelled peas to vegetable sautés or soups. Blanch or steam for 2-4 minutes and add to fried rice or rice, pasta salads, or vegetable salads. Alternatively, enjoy peas alone by lightly cooking and serving plain or with butter.
- Sugar snap peas: Snap off stem tip and pull downward to remove string. Eat fresh peas raw, or cook for up to 2 minutes.
- Snow peas: Sauté alone or with other vegetables (add peas for last couple minutes). Eat raw or lightly cooked in salads.
- Pea shoots: Eat raw or lightly sauté (for about a minute). Add to a fresh salad or vegetable sauté.
Pea and Mint Pesto
½ teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 heaping cup green peas (boil fresh peas for 5 minutes, or defrost frozen peas)
Up to 1 packed cup fresh mint leaves
2 slender scallions, chopped
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
About 3 tablespoons milk, half-and-half, or cream, or vegetable stock
Combine garlic and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl and microwave for 15 seconds. Combine peas, garlic oil, mint, scallions, and salt in a food processor. Process until the mixture is as smooth as possible, adding the milk, half-and-half, cream, or stock a tablespoon at a time, as needed. When the desired texture is reached, taste and add salt if needed. Store covered in the refrigerator. Eat on pasta with some parmesan and black pepper, mash into baked potatoes, or use as a topping for soups. (Recipe from The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen.)
Pea Shoots Sautéed with Garlic and Ginger
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 pound pea shoots, rinsed, dried, and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the ginger and the garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Do not allow the garlic to brown. Add the pea shoots, increase the heat to medium, cover the pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the soy sauce and the pepper and toss to mix. Serve immediately, scattered with the sesame seeds. (Original recipe here.)