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More Peas Please

Peas in a pod or pea pods? Sugar or snap peas? Black-eyed peas and field peas?   Want more peas? Please! Like peas in a pod, we line up for dinner to see those little green spheres on our plate. Some of us relish them, savor them with butter or a little mint. Others, well they try to hide them in their mashed potatoes. So why eat peas and which ones to choose?

I hope I can decipher the pea family for you a bit here....then perhaps encourage you to try more of them, especially in the spring when they are oh so good! First of all, let’s talk about nutrition.

(Green) Peas are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, iron and phosphorus, vitamins K, and the B complex - B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), plus folic acid. The minerals: manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium.  Half a cup of frozen peas has only 5% of the daily value for sodium,  50 calories, 4 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbohydrate (of which 3.5 grams are sugars), and 3.8 grams of fiber.  (care of peas.org)

Green peas come in several forms:
  • Petit Pois are very small sweet green peas
  • Garden Peas (English or shelling peas) are grown for their seeds (the peas) with a fibrous inedible case. Best known as the frozen peas but try fresh if you can find them

Edible Pod Peas:
  • Snap Peas - grown for its edible pod, but with a larger seed, aka more mature than a pea pod. Can be eaten cooked or raw
  • Pea Pods (sugar or snow peas) - harvested early to prevent the seeds from getting too large. Used raw or in stir frys, they are not as sweet as the garden pea

Dried:
  • Field peas are grown to produce the dried pea used in pease porridge ( a pea based hummus like porridge cooked with bacon) or pea soup - very common in England.
  • Southern Field Peas are divided into four types -  black eyed peas (cowpeas), crowder peas (grow tight together in a long pod w/ squarish ends), cream peas (very close to black-eyed peas) and field peas. There are many varieties of Southern field peas which you can see here 
  • Split peas are just peas that are dried, then literally split to remove the outer skin, then used in soups, or as a dahl in India. Yellow or green, high in protein and fiber and low in fat make them a great vegetarian option that fills you up.

So what about Wasabi Peas? Those spicy crunchy snack items so common on the shelf of your local supermarket? Well those are made from Marrowfat peas, mature peas that have been a allowed to dry naturally in the field.

At New Year’s in the south, you will find greens and black-eyed peas being served as good luck, a symbol of humility and lack of vanity, and expanding wealth (as the beans expand when cooked). “Eat poor on New Year's, and eat fat the rest of the year.”

The English use a lot of peas in their cooking, as do Asian and Indian chefs.

Green peas go great with mint, onions and pork. Try this recipe for proscuitto and peas. Peas go great in risottos too.

Black-eyed peas are infamous in Hoppin John, a traditional southern dish.
For an asian flair, try this chicken and snow pea dish.
Pea soup can be made from fresh peas or dried and a good ham hock. With black eyed peas  or split peas.
So please pass the peas please - what is your favorite pea recipe?


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