There’s so much we want to say about peas that it’s hard to know exactly where to begin. We felt the same way last year when we did a deep dive into this marvelous vegetable, in a blog post titled Welcome Harbinger of Spring: Fresh Peas (so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the same thing is happening again this year!).
So, here’s what we did. We talked to Farmer Lee Jones about fresh peas and then decided to share our thoughts about them in six different ways:
flavor, flavor, flavor
pairing up peas
nutritional value of peas
health benefits of peas
sweet shelled memories
We know that doesn’t cover all of the important things about the marvelous pea, but at least it’s a start!
“How luscious lies the pea within the pod.” (Emily Dickinson)
In short, farm-fresh peas taste good. Really good. Different varieties come with different flavors, of course. English peas offer up a delicate flavor, while snow peas provide a fresh pea flavor while also being deliciously crisp yet tender, so succulent. Then there are the incredible sweet pea tendrils, and the delicate, slightly sweet pea blossom. Although each offers up unique pleasures, what they have in common is that they’re all flavorful, flavorful, flavorful.
People have recognized this for centuries. In fact, in Elizabethan times (1558-1603), they were already recognized as the delicious delicacy they are, described as being “fit dainties for ladies.” In the 17th century, they served as a favorite bedtime snack for French royalty and, in 1835, Hans Christian Andersen published The Princess and the Pea, proving once and for all that peas are for the most discerning of folks.
Fast forwarding to 1984, that’s the year when Janet Harris of Sussex, England set a world record for eating peas, one by one. She ate 7,175 of them in just 60 minutes—using chopsticks, no less.
Despite the fact that peas have been connected with royalty and at the center of record-breaking feats, if this vegetable could have a personality, it would be a humble one, one open to collaboration. We say this because peas pair so well with an incredible range of other fresh vegetables, herbs and more. Incredible as they are, they have no problem sharing the limelight with other amazing ingredients.
“Peas went with carrots as infallibly as ham went with eggs. For years I thought carrots and peas grew on the same vine.” (Peg Bracken)
English peas, for example, pair perfectly with numerous fresh herbs, including mint, parsley, tarragon, and chervil. They partner brilliantly with fresh carrots, onions, potatoes, squash, and beans, as well as rice, grain, cheese, pasta, and so much more.
They also pair well with ham, as this traditional 19th-century soup recipe from Mrs. Isabella Beeton shows.
Green Pea Soup
3 pints of green peas
¼ lb. of butter
2 or 3 thin slices of ham
6 onions, sliced
4 shredded lettuces
crumb of 2 French rolls
2 handfuls of spinach
1 lump of sugar
2 quarts of common stock
“Put the butter, ham, 1 quart of the peas, onions, and lettuces, to a pint of stock, and simmer for an hour; then add the remainder of the stock, with the crumb of the French rolls, and boil for another hour. Now boil the spinach, and squeeze it very dry. Rub the soup through a sieve, and the spinach with it, to colour it. Have ready a pint of young peas boiled; add them to the soup, put in the sugar, give one boil, and serve. If necessary, add salt.”
For dessert, we at The Chef’s Garden recommend Peas and Carrots Ice Cream. You can find Chef Jamie Simpson’s delectable recipe here.
Fresh peas can also add attractive touches of color to your plates, often in unexpected ways. For example, our mixed snow peas come in a rainbow of hues, from green to gold and even purple. Each and every one bursts with fresh pea flavor while adding beauty to your creative dishes.
The speckled snow pea, meanwhile, offers up red and gold mottled coloring, and they are harvested between snap and snow pea stages so the entire pod can be eaten. Then there are our pea blossoms, which come in stunning white and beautiful mixed hues.
“Being pretty on the inside means you don't hit your brother and you eat all your peas—that's what my grandma taught me.” (Lord Chesterfield)
It’s hard to disagree with Lord Chesterfield’s grandma’s wisdom—and this caused us to think about what other folksy insights might exist on the subject of peas. To start, if a farmer wants to have good luck at harvest time, then tradition says it’s important to plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day!
Farmer Lee Jones says that isn’t 100% true, but it’s still a fun tradition, one containing plenty of truth. After all, these vegetables like to get their start when springtime is still chilly and, by March 17, the soil is usually thawed enough for peas to be planted.
Peas are so much a part of our culture that they’ve found their way into even more traditions, superstitions, and proverbs. For example, have you ever caught yourself counting the number of peas in a pod? Some say that you should watch for pods with only one pea, and celebrate those with nine, for good luck surely follows the nine-pea pod.
Now, here’s a saying to consider. Have you said or heard that two people are as much alike as two peas in a pod? If so, then you’re part of a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. The saying goes on the assumption that peas from the same pod look so much alike that it’s hard to tell them apart, and one writer used this notion in his writing as far back as 1580.
At that time, though, “pease” was the word that referred to a single pea. It wasn’t until the 17th century that “pea” was singular, and “peas” were plural. Today, the only time you’ll probably see “pease” in writing is in connection with a pease pudding (also known as a pease pottage or pease porridge), which is a traditional, savory British recipe that’s often served with ham.
And, of course, there is this nursery rhyme:
Pease pudding hot!
Pease pudding cold!
Pease pudding in the pot
Nine days old.
Before we move on, here’s another superstition to think about. It’s hard to kick in the New Year without a dish of black-eyed peas, right? Knowing exactly how to prepare the dish, though, can get tricky. For example, some people believe that, to bring good luck, the dish should be cooked with a new dime or penny, with the person receiving the coin having extra luck in the upcoming year. Other people say, though, that what’s most important is to eat exactly 365 peas on New Year’s Day. If you eat only, say, 302, then you’ll have 63 days without good luck—and this formula apparently also means that you should eat an extra pea on leap years.
Some say that, if you don’t eat all your peas that day, you’ll have bad luck. Others, though, say that you should always leave one pea on your plate, which represents sharing your luck with another person (perhaps the one who is like two peas in a pod with you!)—and still others say that, if you don’t eat black-eyed peas with pork and collard greens, the luck simply won’t hold.
Now, here are some scientific facts about peas and nutrition.
Healthline.com shares that green peas “have an impressive nutrition profile,” containing “just about every vitamin and mineral you need, in addition to a significant amount of fiber.” And, they do all this with a “fairly low” number of calories. Peas are unique in the world of vegetables, the article continues, because of their high protein content, with just half a cup of peas providing 170 grams of protein.
They’re also a source of:
Vitamin A: 34% of the RDI
Vitamin K: 24% of the RDI
Vitamin C: 13% of the RDI
Thiamine: 15% of the RDI
Folate: 12% of the RDI
Manganese: 11% of the RDI
Iron: 7% of the RDI
Phosphorus: 6% of the RDI
Fresh peas are a perfect example of what we mean by Farmacy at The Chef’s Garden because they demonstrate how you can have flavor AND nutrition AND beautiful plate presentation.
Farmacy = you can have it all.
We aren’t surprised to see peas listed as one of the world’s healthiest foods. Peas are:
“loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients”
associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
able to directly regulate food digestion rates, which can lead to steadier blood sugar levels
able to help lower fasting blood sugars and fasting insulin levels
playing a role in heart health
being shown to play a part in reducing the risk of stomach cancer
RealFoodForLife.com shares additional health benefits of peas, including how they fit well in a weight management plan, help to improve bowel health, and provide vitamins necessary for healthy bones. Plus, the niacin in peas help to fight “bad” cholesterol while increasing the good kind.
Certain foods evoke fond memories, and perhaps this is most true of the shelled pea. We’ve collected some of the memories we’ve read online, and here are just a couple of them.
“When I was growing up in England, I knew spring had finally arrived when my grandmother started tossing young, freshly shelled peas just barely blanched in boiling water with chopped fresh mint and a generous knob of butter. I loved the pure, sweet flavor of those peas and their amazing tenderness, with just a hint of crunch.” (FineCooking.com)
“When I shell out my peas, I always remember how my Dad first taught me to plant peas and later pick them and shell them out. I remember him telling me how when he was a kid, everyone helped shell out peas... him, his brothers, his parents, and his grandparents.
“They grew enough peas to eat fresh in the springtime and to can for the wintertime. That, my friends, is a lot of peas. I can imagine them all sitting on the front porch at the old farmhouse, shelling out peas, talking and telling stories.
“We don't have near enough of that kind of family time any more, do we?” (MayDreamsGardens.com)
If you’re looking for just the right pea for your creative dishes, then we invite you to see the smorgasbord of pea choices available at The Chef’s Garden. You can easily see what’s available today, and each will grace your plates and flavor your dishes in a unique way.
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