We’re almost ready to pick our first crop of peas from the garden for the year. My daughter and husband like them raw, while I prefer them cooked. Everyone seems to have a story about picking peas and then sitting and shelling them when they were young.
My dad grew up in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. He used to tell the story that before he and his brother could go off swimming for the day they had to shell a bushel of peas — each. Knowing my grandmother and her strong work ethic, I’m pretty sure this did occur.
I’m sure this wasn’t a meditating experience, but for an adult this can be very relaxing. Sitting on the porch on a warm summer day with the harvest from your garden, a tall glass of ice tea and allowing your mind to wander can be very stress relieving. Just sit, shell and think.
Peas are usually available in three types — snow, garden and snap. Snow peas are the flatter of the three types and are not fully opaque, so you can see the shadows of the flat peas inside. Garden peas have rounded pods that are usually slightly curved in shape. Their texture is smooth and they are a vibrant green color. The pods contain green rounded peas that are sweet and starchy in taste. The pod of the garden (or green) pea is inedible. Snap peas are a hybrid of garden and snow peas; their plump pods have a crisp snappy texture. The sugar snap pea was developed in 1979 to make an edible-pod variety with sweeter, full-sized peas. The pods of both snow and snap peas are edible and both have a slightly sweeter taste than does the garden pea.
Edible-pod peas are also named snapping peas for how they can be snapped and eaten like green beans.
Peas are usually considered by most to be a vegetable, but they are actually classified as a legume.
So, like other legumes, they are a good source of protein — similar to peanut butter. One serving (1/2 cup) of cooked green peas provides an excellent source of vitamins A and K, a good source of vitamin C, fiber, thiamin and folate and more than four grams of protein in just 62 calories.
One serving (1/2 cup) of cooked edible-pod peas provides an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K; and a good source of fiber and iron in just 42 calories along with 3 grams of protein.
When selecting sugar snap peas, look for peas that are bright green, firm and free from blemishes.
Store peas in the shell in the crisper section of the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag and try to use within two days.
Unfortunately, only about 5 percent of peas are sold fresh today — and they are usually sugar snap and snow peas; over half are canned and the rest are frozen. Green peas are among the top ten most commonly eaten vegetables by children.
When you get tired of just having plain cooked peas for dinner, try this salad recipe for a change.
Spring Salad with Peas and Frizzled Shallots
From EatingWell Magazine
Makes 6 servings
This simple spring salad recipe combines red leaf lettuce and frisee with fresh peas and crispy fried shallots tossed with a light tarragon-infused vinaigrette dressing. The fried shallots give this salad an out-of-this-world flavor. And compared with store-bought fried onions, they have half the calories and a fraction of the saturated fat and sodium.
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced shallots
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 cups torn red leaf lettuce
4 cups torn frisee (a member of the endive family)
1 cup shelled fresh peas or frozen peas (thawed)
2 hard-boiled eggs, shredded or chopped
Separate shallot slices into rings. Heat oil in a small stainless-steel skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, four to eight minutes. With the pan off the heat, use a slotted spoon to transfer the shallots to a plate lined with paper towels. Cook the remaining shallots and transfer to the plate. The shallots will get crispier as they cool.
Pour the hot oil into a large, heat-resistant bowl (you should have 1/4 to 1/3 cup); let cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in vinegar, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper until well combined.
Add lettuce, frisee, peas and eggs and toss to combine. Divide among 6 plates. Top each.
Per serving: 205 calories; 16 grams fat (3 grams saturated, 11 grams monounsaturated); 62 milligrams cholesterol; 10 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams added sugars; 5 grams protein; 3 grams fiber; 201 milligrams sodium; 297 milligrams potassium.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.