Peas are one of my favorite things to harvest, but I've got to be careful because they are so addictive I could easily eat the whole crate. These sweet and tasty little treats are a great source of vitamin A, C, B1, folate, iron, and phosphorus, they are also rich in protein and low in fat.Peas date back to ancient times but the cultivation of peas is thought to have begun in the 17th century in England, where breeders of plants developed new and improved varieties of garden peas, which is one of the 3 main types I'm going to talk about today.
These peas are also known as garden or shell peas have to be pulled from their shells because the pods are too fibrous and tough to be digested. Each pod contains 5 to 8 sweet, tender yet slightly crunchy peas. Today, only around 5% of the green peas grown make it to the market fresh, the rest are either frozen, canned, or dried. That's why I am excited we are able to put some fresh English peas in our Farm Box this week. These shelled peas can be blanched and pureed to make a dip or spread, added to soups or stir fry, or my favorite, eaten raw. Their sweet, fresh flavor will complement any spicy curry or rich pasta dish.
Coming from either a purple or white edible flower both the pods and peas are edible, having a tender yet crispy texture. Although used in the culinary world as a vegetable, botanically snow peas are a fruit and are grown for their pods, not their peas inside, unlike English peas. Native to the Mediterranean became very popular in the 19th century in Europe which lead to China, where it became their preferred pea variety. They will go great with any stir fry, soup, rice, curry, or meat dish prepared in a rich sauce. They also taste great raw in most salads.
The most commonly known snap pea is sugar snap, which is a hybrid of a mutant garden pea or English pea and a snow pea. It looks almost identical to an English pea, very round and plump but this pea and pod can be eaten. Each pod contains 3 to 8 peas depending on the size. If left on the vine too long the pods can become tough with fiber and become inedible, so you can shell them like an English pea. In my opinion, they taste the best if you harvest them right around the size of your pinky finger, that's when they are sweet and tender. These peas are best eaten raw or cooked very briefly. You can also steam or blanch them, then toss in a bit of salt, pepper, and butter. They are also more tolerant to heat which allows you to grow them longer than most other pea plants, so we get to enjoy them for a longer season.
I know most peas get a bad rap, mainly from childhood but if you just give them a try you will be pleasantly surprised. If you are not a Farm Box Member but you would like to give one or all a try, swing on down to the farm stand. We currently have all 3 available, so forget about the canned stuff and come and get yourself something fresh.
Pro Tip: For the best flavor eat or freeze peas soon after harvested, the high sugar content of the peas begins to convert to starch as soon as the peas are picked from the vine.