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Featured: Seasonal Highlight: Fresh Green Peas

Every person has memories of bad vegetable experiences growing up — those certain vegetables that made you cringe at the dinner table, and their simple memory can haunt you far into adulthood. Green peas were one of those vegetables for me.

For about 20 years of conscious living, I had thought that green peas were nothing more than those mushy green things in cheap canned food and frozen veggie blend bags. It wasn’t until I was out of college (sadly, I admit) that I realized those mushy green peas were actually born from pea pods — what a revelation! And the first time I actually had a fresh pea pod in my hand and popped out the green peas within — well, let’s just say those cringe-worthy memories of mushy green peas never came back.

Fresh green peas used to be a hot commodity for folks living in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it is quite unfortunate that the 1950’s canned food craze gave these vegetables such a tainted reputation. Fresh green peas are sweet and juicy, and they pop in your mouth ever so lightly. They are incredibly refreshing to eat. When paired with gentle herbs like basil, mint, or tarragon, peas are as delightful as an early spring garden. Truly!

Fresh green peas are just coming into their season in early June, and if you are lucky enough to live in California or other states where they are bountiful, I almost insist that you make it out to the next farmers’ market just to buy some. Some markets sell peas that have been removed from the pods, but for those still in the shell, choose light green pods that are free of bruises and have a fair weight to them — this reflects on the quality of the peas inside.  Open them by pulling the tiny string along the pod’s seam from one end of the pod to the other.

Consider that only 5 percent of green peas are ever consumed fresh (the other 95 percent are frozen or canned) — don’t you want to sample some of that undiscovered 5 percent treasure? Below are some recipes that are created to highlight the unique profile of fresh green peas. If you can’t find any in your neighborhood, feel free to substitute thawed, frozen peas instead. When shopping for pods, a general rule of thumb to remember is that a pound of unshelled peas yields about one cup of shelled peas.

Stir-Fried Green Peas with Watercress
Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups fresh green peas
1 bunch watercress, washed and trimmed
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Procedure:

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When hot, add peas and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add watercress and cook, stirring, until leaves just wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and lemon juice and serve immediately.

Pureed Sweet Peas with Shallots and Basil
Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ pound fresh green peas
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, torn
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Procedure:

  1. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, and salt and cook until softened but not browned, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes. Add peas and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until softened, stirring to prevent browning.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool. Place in food processor or blender with basil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Puree until mixed and chunky; add additional lemon juice if smoother consistency is desired. Serve warm.

Herbal Pea Salad with Swiss Cheese
Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh black pepper
2 cups fresh green peas
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, torn
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, torn
½ cup cubed Swiss cheese

Procedure:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper until well mixed.
  2. In a large bowl, toss peas, mint, parsley, and cheese in dressing; toss to coat and serve.

 

 

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Anna HewittWhether sewing, planting seeds, or in the kitchen, Anna loves to create. She spends lots of time in the kitchen making as much as possible from scratch. When not baking, canning, or fermenting, she sews bags, aprons, and other items inspired by the kitchen and the garden (www.seedlingdesign.net). She often feels torn between finding some land to put down roots and taking the opportunity to travel and see more of the world. For now she eagerly explores her new surroundings in the mid-west and schemes about how to see more. Anna writes and shares recipes on her blog (roadtothefarm.blogspot.com).

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