English Peas: Exploring the Perfect Pea
“How luscious lies the pea within the pod.” (Emily Dickinson)
At The Chef’s Garden, we cultivate our peas with care—honoring a vegetable that was one of the earliest foods intentionally grown by humans. The pea was domesticated about 11,000 years ago in today’s Middle Eastern countries in the “Fertile Crescent.” Eating peas wasn’t new then, though. Not by a long shot. In fact, people were enjoying wild peas tens of thousands of years ago.
Fast forwarding until today, our fresh English peas are in demand for their delicate true pea flavor. They’re perfectly paired with chervil, mint, parsley, and tarragon, as well as with beans, onions, potatoes, squash, and much more—including carrots, with Farmer Lee Jones sharing how “peas and carrots go together like a sock and a shoe.”
Peas and Carrots: One of the World’s Greatest Pairings
“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)
There’s plenty of science behind why certain foods go well together—and then there are timing issues. When it comes to peas and carrots, Farmer Lee shares how fresh carrots are a perfect early summer vegetable. That’s because they can be planted in cold temperatures and then harvested right about when peas are also at their peak in flavor. So, in addition to the science of food and flavor, the agricultural realities of these two vegetables mean that it’s easy to have farm-fresh varieties of both of them at the same time.
As a fun side note, we’re happy to report that Google is recognizing the expertise of The Chef’s Garden and Farmer Lee on this subject. Type in “Why do peas and carrots go together?” and a snippet from our site is what shows up on top.
Peas and carrots are so amazing together that they even make a playfully delicious dessert: Chef Jamie Simpson’s Peas and Carrots Ice Cream Sandwiches.
For the sweet pea ice cream:
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup cane sugar
3/4 cups milk
1 1/4 cups cream
4 oz cream cheese
5 oz sweet peas blanched (frozen sweet peas can substitute)
1/2 tsp butter
Bring the milk and cream to low heat on the stove. Allow to just start a very low simmer. Meanwhile whisk your egg yolks, sugar, and salt together vigorously for a few minutes until fluffy and almost marshmallow-like in texture. Slowly temper in very small batches of the hot cream and milk into the egg base, whisking constantly. Add the peas, butter, and the cream cheese. Mix until fully incorporated.
Bring the contents of the custard base to a double boiler and whisk constantly on medium low heat. Continue whisking until the base thickens and is hot to the touch. The proper consistency is called nape, just coating the back of the spoon. Shift the custard base to a blender and puree on high until very smooth. Chill the anglaise over an ice bath. Once cool, transfer to an ice cream churn, and churn to desired consistency based on manufacturer’s recommendations. Immediately place the ice cream into the freezer.
For the carrot cake freezer cookies:
Bake this recipe in a cake pan for an excellent carrot cake, as well.
1 cup AP Flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil (we used grapeseed oil)
1 ½ cup grated organic carrots
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, grate the carrots with a fine box grater. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, eggs, and oil to the carrots.
Distribute twenty-four 3/4 oz. scoops (1T) of the batter onto greased sheet trays or silicon mats. These ingredients will spread, so be sure to leave plenty of room and use multiple sheet trays, if needed. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the “cookies” are a rich brown color. Allow to cool, remove from tray, and freeze.
To Assemble and Serve:
Start with one inverted cookie. Scoop a generous amount of ice cream onto the cookie and distribute evenly. Place another cookie on top and repeat on top of that, creating a three-layer cake, essentially. Place the sandwich back in the freezer to set up until ready to serve. To make nice tight squares, clean up the edges with a serrated knife after the cookies have reset in the freezer for an hour or two. Repeat until ingredients are depleted. Store the cookies frozen and individually wrapped in parchment paper.
The Perfect Pea
Farmer Lee wants to address a long-standing legend: that the perfect pea should be planted on St. Patrick’s Day, which is March 17. So, is that true or false? His answer: There is nothing magical about that day, although it is true that planting peas at just the right time is crucial—and that moment just might be on or about March 17. The climate where a farmer lives plays a role—and so does that year’s weather.
English peas have deliciously sweet and delicate peas housed inside of a pod, and so it can be super tempting to grab a pod (or ten) and then slide the row of peas along your teeth to enjoy the maximum in freshness, crispness, and flavor. (Why not? We do exactly the same thing on the farm!) Just make sure you have enough of them to also use them in your dishes and menus, and then you should be all set. (When a vegetable has a short growing season, you don’t want to miss out on any opportunities!)
More English Pea Recipes
Here’s the beauty of the English pea. While they definitely pair perfectly with carrots, they have so many more deliciously ideal applications. For example, there is English Pea and Fennel Cauliflower Risotto that includes cauliflower rice, onion, garlic, fennel, and coconut cream to create a marvelous blend of mouth-watering taste sensations.
Next up is an original recipe from the Culinary Vegetable Institute, Farfalle Pasta and Ground Lamb. Because summer is the time of year to quickly cook ingredients to enhance the flavor of the incredible veggies of the season, this recipe embraces that philosophy.
In 2019, we shared a traditional Green Pea Soup recipe by the one-and-only 19th century British cookbook author, Mrs. Beeton—and she also offers an Asparagus Soup that includes the use of peas.
1-1/2 pint of split peas
teacupful of gravy
4 young onions
1 lettuce cut small
1/2 a head of celery
1/2 a pint of asparagus, cut small
1/2 a pint of cream
3 quarts of water: colour the soup with spinach juice
Boil the peas and rub them through a sieve; add the gravy, and then stew by themselves the celery, onions, lettuce, and asparagus with the water. After this, stew altogether, and add the colouring and cream, and serve.
Peas 2-1/2 hours, vegetables 1 hour; altogether 4 hours. Average cost per quart, 1s.
English Peas: Nutrition and Health Benefits
Green peas have, Healthline.com notes, “an impressive nutrition profile” with “just about every vitamin and mineral you need, in addition to a significant amount of fiber.” They offer up a high amount of protein (170 grams per half cup) with a pretty low number of calories—and here’s what The World’s Healthiest Foods has to say about them:
“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
Plus, WebMD.com calls peas a “vitamin powerhouse” with a “supersized serving of osteoporosis-fighting K.”
Five Fun Facts About Peas
“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).
Here’s a quick rundown of pea-licious trivia!
In Elizabethan England (1558-1603), peas were described as “fit dainties for ladies.”
In the 17th century, French royalty enjoyed peas as a bedtime snack.
In 1835, The Princess and the Pea (by Hans Christian Anderson) proved that peas are for truly discerning folks.
In 1984, Janet Harris set a pea-eating world record using chopsticks: 7,175 in just 60 minutes (that’s nearly 120 per minute!).
Receiving an English pea pod that contains nine peas will bring you good luck—or at least that’s how the story goes.
English Peas at The Chef’s Garden
For more than 35 years, we’ve delivered specialty products to our cherished chefs, ensuring that every single item they receive has the maximum of flavor and nutrition, as well as optimal shelf life and quality. We combine the regenerative farming techniques of our grandparents and great-grandparents with today’s innovative technology and research techniques to bring you the artisanal products you want and need for your uniquely creative menus.
Let us be your personal farmer! Please contact your product specialist today to get the English peas and other delicious seasonal produce you need.