- Sweet peas are an excellent source of vitamin C. A half-cup cooked contains 20 percent of the daily vitamin C your body needs to repair tissue, heal wounds and maintain healthy gums.
The pea wasn't always so tender and tasty. It was only about four centuries ago that Europeans created the sweet peas that we know and love today. Before that, most sweet peas were tough little things that took forever to cook. Now, though, fresh sweet peas are soft, delicious and plentiful. The crunchier, in-the-pod varieties, called snap peas and snow peas, also abound.
There are a number of different kinds, but the three most common - the ones most people visualize when they think "peas" — are sweet peas (also called green, garden or English peas), snap peas and snow peas. The sweet kind is the archetypal pea: small, round, green, numbering about six to a pod. These are usually shelled before eating to release the individual peas. The snow and snap varieties look similar but their peas are smaller and their pods flatter, and they are eaten whole, pods and all, which makes them more vegetable than legume.
When are Peas in Season?
Peas grow best in the cool months from winter to late spring, but greenhouse cultivation means you can find them in your local grocery store any time, either fresh or in the frozen section, where Green Giant Select offers a variety of sweet, snap and snow peas.
How to Choose Peas
Like with most vegetables, avoid peas that appear mushy, moldy or bruised. To pick the best fresh snap peas, choose pods that are bright green and covered with a faint fuzz. Good pods will look like they are bulging or straining to hold in their peas. Snow pea pods, on the other hand, should be flattish, shiny and fuzz-free. Their peas will be very small, and the tinier the pod, the more tender it will be.
How to Store Peas
Peas need to be kept cold. Try to get your pea pods into an unsealed plastic bag and into the refrigerator as soon as you can, since their sugars will turn to starches very fast (usually in just six hours). Or better, you can cook them as soon as you've bought them!
How to Cook with Peas
The beauty of fresh peas is that they can be prepared in no time. First, wash your pea pods under cold tap water. If you're making snap peas or snow peas, simply trim the pointy ends off using a small pair of shears or knife. English or garden peas take a bit more work if you’ve purchased them fresh and still in their inedible pods. They'll need to be shelled, which involves pinching the stem of each pod to reveal a small thread, which you can pull down the length of the pod, "unzipping" it and freeing your peas.
The most common recipes usually call for boiling or steaming. Boil shelled peas for about 10 minutes, or until tender. To boil snap or snow peas, only leave them in the water for two to three minutes, as they’ll cook much faster. If you're steaming shelled peas, do it for four minutes or so. You can check their progress by eating a test pea or two to see if they're tender.
Peas are usually measured in cups, half-cups or individual pods.
Since sweet peas are a mild-tasting legume, many legumes can be used to replace them in a dish. Try using chickpeas, black-eyed peas or lima beans. Just keep in mind that if you buy them dried instead of canned, they will have to soak for hours before you can cook them. To replace snap or snow peas, try using green beans instead.
Peas in Recipes
Whether they're in main dishes or sides, peas add a mild flavor and soft texture to any meal.
As an appetizer, snow peas make a great addition to a Roasted Vegetables with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus plate.
For a hot, steaming sauté that's hard to pass up, try making Sugar Snap Peas and Rice for a hearty dinner.
And if you need a quick, simple side dish with complex flavors, Peas with Mushrooms and Thyme fit the bill, and they cook in 10 minutes!