Frozen peas are a year-round mainstay, but fresh peas are an ephemeral pleasure. When you see them at the market–from April through early fall on the west coast, and in June and July on the east coast–snap them up, and plan to eat them the same day you buy them.
There are a variety of spring peas that you can eat different ways: English peas (also called garden peas) require shelling. But juicy sugar snap peas and flat snow peas have edible pods. All are bursting with vitamins and antioxidants including vitamin C, plus important B vitamins including folate, which important for heart health and fetal health.
To shell fresh peas, snap off one of the ends and tug gently on the string to “unzip” the pod. Then run your finger along the inside of the pod to detach the peas. You can save the pods to simmer in water to make a delicious broth for soup or risotto.
Peas with edible pods need only their ends trimmed before cooking or eating. If they have a fibrous string, tug gently to remove it. Then sauté, stir fry, or blanch them quickly, so that they retain their crisp texture and vibrant green color.
Fresh shelled peas are delicious raw, but they also make great simple side dishes and salads. Here are a few simple ideas for how to enjoy them:
- Plunge shelled peas into salted boiling water for a minute, just until tender, and toss them with olive oil and sea salt or a spoonful of crème fraiche and a little chopped mint.
- Toss cooked, cooled peas with olive oil, vinegar, or lemon juice, and other chopped vegetables like radishes, corn, or asparagus.
- If you’re lucky enough to find pea shoots at the market in early spring, rinse them well, chop them into 2 or 3 inch lengths, and sauté them with oil and garlic as a delicious side dish for fish.
- Add uncooked peashoots to brothy soups and simmer for a minute or two, just until tender.
Recipe: Spring Pea Salad with Radishes and Mint
3 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 3 pounds peas in the pods)
8 to 10 radishes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup coarsely torn fresh mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook just until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Trim the stem and root ends from radishes and thinly slice.
In a bowl, whisk together olive oil and vinegar. Stir in the peas, radishes, mint, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Serve immediately, or cover and chill for up to 4 hours.
Makes 4 servings