The Cool Crop: Peas

Peas are a cool season, annual crop planted in rotation with other processing crops such as potatoes, sweet corn and snap beans. Peas are members of the legume family and as such, they provide a good source of protein.

Pods should be selected that are well-filled without bulging. Do not purchase flabby, spotted or yellow pods. Refrigerate and use within one week.

When you cook fresh peas, add a few washed pods to the water, this will improve the flavor and will give a better green color to the peas.

Better yet, when you cook the peas in their pods, as they cook the peas will separate from the pods and float to the surface.

Over a Thousand Varieties

Peas found by archaeologists on the Thai-Burmese border have been carbon-dated to 9750 B.C. More than 1,000 varieties of peas are in existence today, (some producing green peas, some yellow).

Peas are a high protein food and a good source of potassium and the B-vitamins. Complex carbohydrates, which peas provide, release energy slowly to the body. This helps to maintain a consistent energy level. Peas are an excellent source of minerals phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Helpful Hint: In vegetable dishes, fresh green peas taste better than dried.

The best “go-with” seasonings for peas are ginger, marjoram, onion, parsley and sage.

Nutrients in Peas

One-half cup of cooked peas provides more than 10 grams of dietary fiber. A high fiber diet may help prevent heart disease and some cancers. Peas are also a good source of Vitamin C, A, and folate. Peas also contain the important antioxidants Zinc and Selenium.

Researchers have found that peas contain a powerful compound that can help prevent healthy cells from becoming cancerous. They haven’t pinned down how many peas you need to eat to get the most benefits. But you can’t go wrong by eating them as often as possible.

Improve Your smile. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for healthy skin and gums.

I once ate a pea.” –George (Beau) Brummel, when asked at dinner if he ever ate vegetables.

“Pea” is for Protein.

Can eating peas save your eyesight? Peas are also an excellent source of lutein, which is believed to help fight macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people age 65 and older. It may surprise you to learn peas are not vegetables — they’re actually legumes. Either way, a 2/3-cup serving contains about 5 grams of protein, or about 10 percent of the daily protein needs of a 130 pound person. Like other legumes, peas are rich in B vitamins, minerals and soluble fiber. While it’s a treat to eat fresh peas in late spring and early summer, shucking them is tedious. Frozen peas are just as nutritious as fresh. Add them to pilafs, bean salads and soups.

Protein Packed Peas

Pea protein isn’t a complete protein – complete protein contains all nine essential amino acids – but it is turning up in bars, drinks and shakes. Pea protein is shelled peas which are powdered and packed as an added protein to these foods. Unlike soy, yellow peas are rarely genetically modified, yet provide almost the same amounts of calories and protein as soy.

Pea protein is usually combined with other plant proteins, such as brown rice or hemp. It contains glutamic acid, which helps convert carbohydrates into energy so they aren’t stored as fat.

This highly digestible plant based protein has a nice, fluffy texture.

Preserve Peas

To preserve green peas, keep them in a polyethylene bag in the freezer.

Pea Facts

When dried peas are placed in water the good ones will sink to the bottom and the bad ones will float to the top.

Dried Peas

What are dry peas? Peas probably originated in northwest Asia. In Thailand, peas have been found in caves that are over 11,000 years old.

Dry peas are dried naturally by the late summer sun. They are most commonly split, which speeds cooking time. How are they split? During processing, peas are sorted. Then they are bombarded against a baffler, which causes them to split in two. Americans are most familiar with green peas, but yellow peas are also grown on the Palouse. They are most commonly consumed in Scandinavia and taste slightly different than green peas.

For every cup of dry peas, use two cups water. With split peas, there is no need to soak. Bring water to a boil and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the peas reach desired tenderness. One cup of dried peas will yield two cups of cooked peas.

In a cool, dry place, dry peas may be stored indefinitely.

After long storage of peas, the color may fade slightly, but the taste will not be noticeably altered. For whole peas, soak overnight and then cook for 35-40 minutes.

Did you know?

In India, McDonald’s offers the McAloo Tikki burger, a spicy vegetarian patty made of potatoes and peas.

Ninety-five percent of peas are frozen or canned.

Quick Pea Crostini Recipe

Combine 1-1/2 cups thawed frozen peas, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper in a food processor until coarsely pureed. Spread 8 ounces goat cheese among 30 crostini. Top each with a spoonful of pea puree, garnish with sliced watermelon radish or beets. 35 calories, 3g fat

And how about a quick pea soup?
Cook 3 chopped scallions in pan sprayed with nonstick spray 2 minutes. Add 1-1/2 cup peas and 1 cup chicken broth; bring to boil. Puree in blender with 2 tablespoons fat free half-and-half and 1 teaspoon Parmesan. Makes 2 cups.

Savory Snow Peas: Another Healthy Legume

snowpeasSnow peas are actually a type of legume.

With snow peas both the pods and seeds are edibile. You are probably familar with them as a staple of Chinese Food.

Also called sugar peas and Chinese peas, good-quality snow peas will have flat pods that are firm and crisp with immature-looking peas inside.

Nutrition in Snow Peas

Snow peas are a rich source of vitamin C; a source of vitamins A (as beta carotene), and Vitamins B1, and B2. Plus a good source of dietary fiber and protein.

Potassium is considered a major mineral and it works with sodium to regulate electrolyte balance in the cells.

Potassium is also beneficial in helping to maintain normal blood pressure.

Potassium is also considered a brain food because it is needed for the transmission of nerve impulses.

Using Snow Peas

Saute snow peas in sesame oil with minced garlic and a ripe red pepper for an easy vegetable side dish. Sprinkle a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds on top and serve.

As an appetizer, snow peas make the perfect dipper. They don’t require any chopping and they are a fun alternative to celery.

Saute some snow peas in a pan with some olive oil; add lemon zest, your favorite spices, some chopped onion, parsley and some sesame seeds.

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