Spring peas? Smart diners, cooks answer: ‘Yes, please!’

KEARNEYSVILLE – Peas, Peas, Peas. Peas are rich in fiber, folic acid and vitamin A. We should all be eating them, and if possible, growing our own.

Peas are a cool-season vegetable, meaning they will perform best when temperatures are in the 70s and will be just fine if subjected to a light frost. Their growing season of only about 60 days makes them easy to grow in our area.pat_peas

Most gardeners plant around April 1 for an early crop. There are three major types of edible peas: English peas, snap peas and pod peas, also called snow peas or sugar peas.

English peas are the standard shelled pea and are great for freezing and fresh eating. Snap peas are the round pod-type of edible pod peas. Sugar and snow peas have flat, crispy pods. They are a stir-fry classic and a welcome addition to any fresh salad.

Sure, you can purchase a can of peas at a local grocery, but using fresh peas when cooking makes all the difference.

The pea can be using in numerous recipes from soups and salads to casseroles. Try this yummy Split Pea Soup. Heat ½ cup olive or vegetable oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add 1 stalk celery, chopped, a ham bone or country ham and 2 white onions, chopped.

Cook, stirring for 5 to 10 minutes. Add 2 pounds dried split peas, 1 gallon chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low heat until thickened and the peas are broken down, stirring constantly so the mixture doesn’t burn.

Using a strainer with large holes, strain into a large serving bowl to force the pulp through the holes. The ham can be chopped into small pieces and added to the soup before serving, if desired.

Ladle the soup into serving bowls and top each serving with croutons. This makes eight servings; however you can use only half of the recipe for a smaller serving size.

Creamed Peas with onions and a seasoned white sauce makes for an easy side dish. Combine ¾ cup thinly sliced onion rings, 1½ cups water and 1 teaspoon salt in saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 7 minutes. Add 1½ to 2 cups frozen peas and cook for 5 minutes longer, or until peas are just tender.

Drain and reserve ¾ cup of the cooking liquid. In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon flour, dash salt, dash pepper, dash nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon diced pimiento. Stir until smooth and bubbly. Add 1 tablespoon diced pimiento, ½ cup heavy cream and reserved liquid from vegetables. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened. Add the vegetables and heat through. This serves four.

Another favorite is Green Pea Salad with Creamy Dressing. This green pea salad is as pretty as it is flavorful, with bright green peas, shredded carrot, bell pepper, red onion, and celery.

Serve this salad at any cookout, potluck event or picnic. Make this a few hours in advance and chill thoroughly for best flavor. Start with 4 cups fresh or frozen green peas, cooked until tender, rinsed under cold water. Place in a large bowl, with 1 small carrot (shredded), ½ red bell pepper (finely chopped), 1 red onion (finely chopped, about 1 cup), ½ cup finely chopped celery, ½ cup light or regular ranch-style salad dressing and 1/3 cup mayonnaise.

Mix the dressings together in a small bowl, add to larger bowl and mix with vegetables until the vegetables are well coated.

How about Potato Salad with Peas? For this sure winner, fresh or frozen green peas add flavor and color to this well-seasoned potato salad. Start with 2 pounds red-skinned potatoes. Place in a saucepan and cover with water, add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook until tender.

Drain, transfer to a bowl and add 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped; 1 cup fresh or frozen peas, cooked and drained; and ½ cup finely chopped red onion. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

In a cup or bowl, combine 2/3 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon sour cream, 2 to 3 teaspoons mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir into the potato mixture until blended. You may want to add more mayonnaise.

Or get your peas fix by simply opening a can of peas, doctoring them up with butter and seasoning, perhaps adding scallions or small white onions for more taste. The ideas are endless!

 

— Send feedback on this column or suggestions for future food articles to Patt Welsh at pwelsh@shepherd.edu.

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