English peas (sometimes called garden peas or pod peas) have a fresh, slightly grassy flavor that is the essence of spring. English peas are wonderful puréed and made into a creamy soup or spread. They add bright points of color and flavor to pilafs, risotto, fried rice, pasta, and soups. Steamed and sprinkled with fresh mint or parsley, they make a wonderful side dish.
Pods should be bright green and feel heavy. Each 1 pound of whole pods yields about 1 cup of shelled peas so make sure to pay attention to the desired measurement in your recipe. Their sugars convert quickly to starch so English peas are best eaten the day that they are purchased. If needed, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To prepare, shell peas right before cooking them in order to keep them from drying out. Once shelled, peas can be briefly cooked in 1/4 inch of steaming water for 3 to 4 minutes. They will quickly turn soggy and lose their vibrant color, so it is important not to overcook them.
“Work With What You Got!”
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There are several types of fresh peas, all of which are available nearly year round these days, but they are at their peak during the spring and early summer months. Like corn, the natural sugar in peas converts quickly to starch, so make sure to buy peas fresh, store them in the refrigerator, and use them within a day or two.
English shell peas are the familiar round green pea. Frozen tiny tender green peas, while enjoyable and convenient throughout the winter months, bear little resemblance to the texture and bright flavor of fresh peas. The springtime ritual of shelling peas is just as satisfying as shucking summer corn, and their flavor and texture are worth every minute.
When shopping for English peas, look for bright green smooth, succulent pods filled with evenly plump, round seeds. The freshness of the pods is an indication of the freshness of the peas. For the most reliable test, pop open a pod and taste a pea. Fresh peas should taste sweet and grassy. A pound of English shell peas in their pods yields about 2 cups of shelled peas, which translates into 2 to 3 servings.
Both sugar snaps and snow peas are edible pod peas. There is no shelling required. As their name implies, sugar snaps are delightfully sweet. Sugar snaps are delicious raw, but their flavor is enhanced with a brief cooking. As with all other peas, look for bright, smooth, succulent, tender green pods with fresh looking stems.
“Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen