Peas 101

November 21, 2011

Love peas, but not sure if you should buy fresh or frozen, or don’t quite know what to do with fresh peas? Well here’s your 101

Peas are bright green legumes and come in three main varieties: snap peas, snow peas, and garden. All peas are in the legume family and are packed with vitamins and minerals.

How to Buy: five percent of all peas are sold fresh during the spring (check you farmers market!). Peas should be firm, velvety smooth with a lively green color. The majority of peas are sold either frozen or canned. Frozen peas in boxes or bags should feel solid with no soft spots to indicate defrosting. Canned peas may have high amounts of sodium, and lack the bright green color or fresh or frozen.

What to look for on the Label? Check the label for added sodium and sugar; both are unnecessary and you can usually find frozen peas with out additives.

Choices: Snow Peas are peas within a pod, they are 2-4 inches long, flat, and both the pod and tiny peas are edible. The majority of peas consumed are Garden peas. These peas are removed from the pod and are sweet and starchy. Snap peas are a cross between the two, plump pods, with a crisp snappy texture; both pod and peas are edible.

How to Use? Peas are ideal to use either as a side vegetable, or in soups or stews as they take very little time to cook and add vibrant green color. Fresh peas can be eaten raw but do taste sweeter when lightly cooked. When preparing snow peas, wash the pods and remove the string-like vein surrounding the snow pea pod. Fresh spring peas and milk are a delicious breakfast; steam for 1 to 2 minutes; sauté or stir fry with rice or vegetables; garnish mashed potatoes or toss into salads.

How to Store? Frozen peas keep for several months; re-wrap after opening box or bag to maintain freshness and avoid freezer burn. Fresh peas should be kept in plastic or vegetable bags, tightly closed in the refrigerator.

Smarter Shopping: when fresh peas are in season, use promptly or blanch quickly, dry, freeze, securely wrapped, until ready to use.