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Peas are delicious in salads, stir-fries, soups, curries and stews, or as a simple accompaniment to meat or fish. Eat them straight-up as a side, braise with lettuce for a warm salad, or stir through pasta. Fresh peas taste best either raw or lightly cooked. To defrost frozen peas, steam or boil them for a few minutes. Don’t overcook them or they’ll lose their sweetness. Generally, pea pods are discarded, but you can drop them into pasta water to give it a fresh flavour.
WATCH: Pea & feta quesadillas
READ: 5 sweet and tasty recipes for peas!
WHAT ARE PEAS?
Although we call peas a vegetable, they are technically a fruit because we eat the seeds and seed pods of the plant. You can also eat the flowers and young shoots of pea plants. They are sweet and delicious in salads, or scattered over dishes such as risotto and pasta. Peas are in the fabaceous plant family, along with climbing beans. Some varieties of pea plants can grow to more than two metres tall, whereas others are referred to as dwarf varieties, and would barely reach up to your knee. Although fresh veggies are a real treat and full of goodness, frozen peas are frozen so soon after they’re picked that all the lovely sweetness and nutrients are locked in, not lost.
WHEN ARE PEAS IN SEASON?
Peas are in season from May to October, but frozen peas are available all year round and are still full of nutrients.
HOW TO STORE PEAS
Fresh peas should be eaten as soon as possible after purchase (or picking!), as they can get starchy very quickly after harvest. If you can’t eat them straight away, keep them in the freezer.
What are the health benefits?
Humble little peas are a source of a few different micronutrients, and are especially high in thiamine – a B-vitamin that helps our hearts to function properly, and keeps our nervous system healthy. They're also a good source of vitamin C and fibre. Three heaped tablespoons of fresh, canned or frozen peas counts towards your 5-a-day (one portion of veg or fruit is 80g raw weight).
Got Fresh or Frozen Peas? Here's How to Cook Them So They Shine
A bowl full of just-shelled peas is an anticipation of pure pleasure—if the peas make it into the bowl at all, sweet and crunchy as they are. But frozen peas also have wonderful flavor𠅊nd save you a ton of work in the kitchen. The key to preserving the wonderfully sweet flavor and crisp texture of peas is to barely cook them. Briefly boiled or steamed English peas need very little embellishment—just a small bit of butter and a little salt, maybe chopped mint or basil. Sauté snow peas in sesame oil and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and salt. Crunch on crisp and juicy sugar snap peas (an edible-pod pea that is a cross between snow peas and English peas) raw with dip or slice into thin ribbons and toss with coarsely shredded radishes and vinaigrette. No matter what kind of peas you have on hand, here&aposs how to buy, prep and cook them, plus freezing instructions to keep sweet peas around a little longer.
The short shelf life of English peas in particular means they can be difficult to find fresh. Outside of growing your own, a farmstand or farmers&apos market is your best bet. For all three varieties, choose pods that are crisp, glossy and bright green, with fresh-looking ends. Avoid pods that are dull, faded, yellowing, blemished, limp or overly mature.
There are two ways to thaw frozen peas.
- Microwave. Remove the peas from the bag. Place in a microwave-safe container. Add about 1/4 cup of water and cover. Heat until the peas are thawed. For two cups of frozen peas, it takes about three minutes. Don’t worry about getting the peas steaming hot. You’ll saute them in the next step.
- Stovetop. Place the frozen peas into a large skillet. Add 1/4 cup water. Cover the pan. Heat over medium heat until the peas are thawed, about five minutes. Stir the peas occasionally.
Peas mix with potatoes well in this curry, otherwise known as Bombay Potatoes and Peas. The recipe offers step-by-step instructions for the balance of flavor, with the marriage of peas and potatoes as the main ingredients. Spices and aromatics include cumin, mustard, red onion, garlic, turmeric, salt, chili powder, garam masala, and cilantro, all of which are available at most grocery stores.
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- Most farmers markets and some grocery stores like Piggly Wiggly and Whole Foods sell already shelled peas, which may seem like a gift from above if you recall summers spent shelling on the porch. But much like making a pie crust from scratch, there is something to be said for shelling them yourself if you&aposve got the time.
- If you are buying field peas still in their shells, look for flexible, full-feeling pods. In regards to those already shelled, they should smell and appear fresh.
- The next time you&aposre at the market, go survivalist and buy as many field peas as you can. In the words of Annelle from Steel Magnolias, they "freeze beautifully." Just blanch covered for two minutes in boiling water, immediately submerge in ice water, and pack into freezer containers with a half-inch of head space or in plastic bags with the air pressed out. You&aposre going to need some anyhow for New Years Day.
- And for goodness sakes, don&apost throw away that potlikker after simmering your peas. It&aposs just a sin. At least sop it up with your favorite cornbread or use it for a soup base.
How to Prepare Spring Peas with No Recipe
Garden peas are both sweet and savory. They have a grassy sweetness with an undertone of umami.
Cooking fresh shelled peas can be difficult: you will want to eat them fresh out of the pod before you ever get near the stove. But if you do get to the stove, cooking shelled peas—and peas in the pod, for that matter—is short, sweet, and easy.
The season for shelled garden peas—also called English peas—is short. They are grown and harvested in spring when the weather is cool. Snap peas and snow peas which are eaten pod and all can tolerate a bit of heat and last to early summer.
Fresh peas should be small, bright green, tender, and sweet. The pods should look crisp. Choose peas that squeak when the pods are rubbed together. Small, young peas will have the best flavor—their sugars have not yet turned to starch.
Peas are a tasty match to eggs, bacon, beef, chicken, lamb, pork, shellfish, smoked fish, white fish–and just about any other spring vegetables: asparagus, onions, carrots, parsnips, new potatoes, and the list goes on.
How to Cook Fresh Shelled Peas with No Recipe
Ratio: One pound of peas in the pod will yield one cup of shelled peas which will serve two people. You will need 3 to 4 pounds of peas in the pod to yield enough shelled peas to serve 4 people.
Preparation: Fresh garden peas should be shelled just before cooking. Rinse the pods under cold running water rub the pods gently to remove soil. To shell peas, snap off the stem end of the pod. You will see the green natural string running along the inner seam of the pod give it a pull then press the seam of the pod and pop it open. Run your finger down the pod, pushing out the peas. Do not wash the shelled peas before cooking. (Sugar snaps peas and snow peas are commonly cooked whole see all the way below.)
Cooking: Peas like all vegetables are most flavorful and tasty cooked to just crisply, tender—that is slightly undercooked. Simmer young shelled peas 2 to 5 minutes. Steam young shelled peas 5 to 10 minutes.
Simmering peas in water or light stock. Bring ⅛ to ½ inch of water or light stock (about ⅛ inch of liquid per pound of peas) to boiling in a medium saucepan. Add shelled peas they should be just covered by the water. Cover the pan, and turn the heat down to low. Simmer until the peas are just tender and bright green—about 2 to 5 to 7 or 10 minutes or so, depending upon the number of peas.
When the peas are just tender, drain the water if there is any left, and toss the peas with melted butter or hot cream so they are just coated. Sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs, parsley or especially mint.
To this basic method of simmering peas you can also: add a pinch of sugar to give the peas extra sweetness add two or three peas still in the pods to deepen the flavor add a few drops of lemon juice to help preserve color. Salt peas only after they are cooked.
Finish cooking simmered peas in butter. Rather than tossing peas in butter, place butter in a medium to large skillet and turn the heat to medium as you are simmering the peas as described earlier. When the butter melts, turn the heat to low and add the simmered peas to the heated butter and toss the peas until they just are coated in warm butter, 2 or 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste or an herb to the peas and butter, add a clove or two of garlic minced if you like, or add a several slivers of prosciutto. Give the skillet a gentle shake occasionally, just until the peas are hot and coated with butter and seasoning.
Seasoning and serving cooked peas
Peas can be seasoned with salt, pepper, onion, garlic, dill, marjoram, turmeric, savory, basil, chervil, cilantro, paprika, oregano, tarragon, allspice, mustard, caraway seed, sesame seed, nutmeg, mint, parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme. Season to your taste.
Peas can be served plain or topped with plain or flavored butter or margarine, extra virgin olive oil, vinaigrette dressing, peanut oil, sesame oil, plain or flavored mayonnaise, white sauce, melted cheese or cheese sauce, sour cream, or plain yogurt.
Serve peas alone or mixed with cooked carrots, onions, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, corn, celery, lettuce, sweet bell peppers, pimientos, winter squash, water chestnuts, sliced almonds, bacon, prosciutto, or ham.
Steaming peas in lettuce
Rather than simmering peas in liquid, you can use the moisture of lettuce leaves to cook them tender and sweet. Wash but do not dry several thick leaves of lettuce. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and cover the bottom of the pan with the damp lettuce leaves. Place the peas on top of the leaves and add a pinch or two of salt and sugar then cover with additional damp lettuce leaves. Use a pan that cups the leaves to hold the peas. Cover the saucepan tightly and simmer over low heat until the peas are just tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve the peas with or without the lettuce. If you find the moisture of the lettuce is not enough to steam the peas, you can add just ⅛ inch or less of hot water or light stock to the pan. If you like, you can let the peas and lettuce gently stew in a lump of butter for a few minutes—it will form a sort of creamy sauce–before removing them from the pan. Serve immediately. (Steaming or braising the lettuce tenderizes the peas and imparts a subtle flavor.)
Cooking peas with heavy cream
Melt a dab of butter in a heavy saucepan and add the shelled peas. Cover the peas with heavy cream and cook gently until the peas are tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Just before serving, add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add finely chopped parsley or chopped mint or both if you wish. Serve immediately.
Cooking peas with carrots
Peas and carrots can be cooked and served together—a classic combination. Place shelled peas in a sauce pan and just cover with cold water then bring to just a boil over high heat immediately lower the heat and simmer on until the peas are just tender—a few minutes. Drain well and place the peas in a serving bowl.
Peel one or two medium carrots and cut into batonnet–matchstick shape, or chop into rounds or small cubes. (Don’t use so many carrots that they overwhelm the peas.) Bring salted water to a boil in a second saucepan. Add the carrots, return to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer until tender. Drain, refresh the water, and drain again.
Mix the carrots and peas together. Add a dab of butter and a pinch or two of salt and pepper to taste. Toss over heat until the vegetables are hot and coated with butter. Add parsley or the herb you prefer and toss to mix. Serve immediately.
Cooking peas with onions
Pearl or tiny pickling onions or scallions, shallots, or leeks can be cooked and served with peas. If you choose pearl onions, blanch or parboil them in salted boiling water in advance—only 20 to 30 seconds. Drain and refresh under cold water and drain again. Peel the onions.
Melt a couple of dabs of unsalted butter or warm a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a separate pan. Add the peeled onions or scallions and a spoonful of water and simmer several minutes or until the onions are just tender don’t fry the onions. Add the peas and ½ cup water or so and salt lightly. Stew until the peas are just tender, about 3 or 4 minutes. Season or garnish to taste. Serve immediately.
Cooking peas with new potatoes
Peas and new potatoes are a flavorful spring dish. Combine small new potatoes—about 8 to 16 new potatoes to a pound, with water to cover and a dash of coarse salt in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil cook until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a sharp knife or fork, about 15 minutes for a pound of potatoes.
Drain away the water and return the potatoes to the saucepan along with enough cream to cover. Place the pan over medium heat and swirl the potatoes around so they are coated with the cream and the cream just starts to bubble. Reduce the heat to low, add the peas and stir. Simmer until the peas are just tender, about 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Cooking peas with mushrooms
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Add mushrooms—coarsely chopped chanterelles, shiitakes, or button mushrooms—an equal amount to the peas you plan to cook. Sauté the mushrooms until just soft. Add crème fraiche—about a cup for each pound of peas you plan to cook–and reduce by one half. Add freshly shelled peas and simmer over low heat until the peas are just tender, about 20 minutes for a pound of peas. Season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and your herb of choice try chopped leaves of cilantro, tarragon, parsley, or mint.
Cooking peas with a medley of seasonal vegetables
Any vegetables that can be simply boiled or steamed and dressed with butter are a good match to freshly shelled peas: asparagus, celery, cabbage, green or yellow beans, lima beans, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beets, kohlrabi, parsnips, rutabagas, or turnips. Add any two of these to peas to prepare a medley of seasonal vegetables.
Follow the cooking instructions above to prepare each vegetable. Prepare the more solid vegetables first (use the list above in inverse order) root vegetables such as beets, kohlrabi, parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips are prepared much as carrots. Less solid vegetables are prepared much as mushrooms. Prepared separately they are transferred in the final step to a serving bowl and mixed with the hot peas and tossed with butter and seasoning.
Cooking peas in the pod
Snow peas and sugar snap peas are commonly cooked in the pods. The string must be removed from sugar snap peas before they are cooked. Snap off the stem end and pull the string away easily. Steam, sauté, stir-fry, or boil snap and snow peas until the pods are tender-crisp. Taste to be sure. Serve them separately or mix them tossed with butter or sesame oil until just coated and seasoned to taste. Serve immediately.
Brilliantly green, a bowl of peas is a delightful thing: After a pat of butter and a shower of mint, all you really need to enjoy them is a spoon. Since they are so simple to prepare, it's easy to forget that there are more ways to use peas than the reflexive drop-and-boil. To honor the familiar legume, we have collected our best recipes for peas.
Much as we love frozen peas (they're always in season!), each year we wait for spring when fresh peas come into season. After all, what could possibly be better than just-shelled garden peas? Peas have strong qualities in terms of their ingredient-game. Their iconic color adds instant vibrance to any dish. Their famed sweetness is a contrast for neutral, tart, or herbal flavors. And their distinctive pea-texture&mdashsoft after an initial pop&mdashmakes them as good intact as they are smooshed. Finally, they are so easy to prepare: Cooked in minutes, peas come to the rescue when time is tight.
And those are the so-called English peas, whose pods we discard. Fresh sugar snap peas, with their flattened, edible pods and tiny green pearls inside, are another delicacy. Snap peas are a tonic in any dish that needs a quick fix: risotto, pasta, and bruschetta are brought to life by their emerald freshness. And peas have other secrets up their green sleeves: Their edible tendrils and young leaves are a delicious bonus, adding crunch and whimsy wherever they land. If you grow your own, pea tendrils are a cut-and-come again pleasure.
Perfect just picked or cooked from frozen, in everything from soup to sides.
Pea, ham hock & watercress salad
Pea, ham and parsley are one of life's great combinations - this green salad with mustard dressing is simple, fresh and healthy
Grilled sea trout with raw pea salsa
This recipe uses young, sweet peas, fresh trout and crispy bacon to make an easy yet stylish fish supper - an everyday meal or a dinner party dish
Pea, feta & summer herb frittata
Use your favourite soft herbs in this thick grilled omelette with peas, cream cheese and courgette- we like dill, mint and parsley
Pea & bacon pasties
Fill puff pastry with a mascarpone, smoked bacon, peas and Parmesan mix, shape into parcels and bake until crisp
Summer ham & pea broth
This smart soup doesn't require any cooking- just pour hot water over stock, grains and lots of delicious green vegetables
Pea & spring onion tart
Bake mature cheddar or Beaufort cheese into your pastry base and fill with a creamy pea mix with nutmeg and spring onions
Pea, pancetta & potato salad
A little pancetta goes a long way in this vibrant, summer side dish
Brown butter sole with peas & mussels
Baste your fish in brown butter then steam with shellfish, peas, cider and zesty lemon
Pea & new potato curry
A low-fat and low-calorie vegetable curry that's made with madras spice and yogurt
Sweet pea salad
A super green leaf salad with sugar snaps, cress and petit pois dressed in yogurt, mint and chives
Pasta with ham & minty pea pesto
Serve your choice of pasta with ham and a vivid green sauce made from peas, mint and crème fraîche
Pea & ham soup
A meaty and vibrant soup that's great for using up festive ham leftovers or as a comforting storecupboard soup
Crisp prosciutto, pea & mozzarella salad with mint vinaigrette
Fresh Italian flavours make a perfect complement to the warmer weather
Pea & mint soup
A superhealthy starter or snack that's great hot or cold
Pea & feta toasts
This spin on bruschetta tops baguette slices with crushed peas, mint and salty cheese - great for canapés
Basil, pea & pancetta tart
This is perfect if you’re having lunch guests as much of it can be prepared a day ahead
Witches’ brew (Pea & bacon chowder)
We love this soup all through the year, but it really comes into its own at Halloween - for obvious reasons!
Lemony prawn & pea risotto
Stirring can be strangely soothing, as you'll find when preparing this summery seafood risotto
Pea, feta & quinoa spring rolls with roast tomato nam prik
Serve up these vegetarian filo pastry canapés with nam prik - a Thai chilli paste that we've mixed with oven-roasted tomatoes to make a dipping sauce
Lamb meatball & pea pilaf
Meatballs aren't just for pasta dishes. Experiment with this tasty pilaf - a winner for any meatball fan
Minty pea & potato soup
This vibrant soup is fresh-tasting and substantial enough to have for dinner
Pea, mint & spring onion soup with parmesan biscuits
The parmesan 'tuiles' make this soup stylish enough for entertaining – but they take just a few minutes to make
Pea & broad bean hummus with goat’s cheese & sourdough
Any leftover hummus from this summery lunch dish will keep well covered in the fridge for up to three days and makes a great snack with toasted pittas
How To Cook Sugar Snap Peas
Sugar snap peas can be steamed or blanched and then seasoned with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper. But my favorite way to prepare snap peas is to saute them which further brings out their sweetness and flavor and enhances their texture.
This sauteed snap peas recipe is super easy and super quick to make taking all of 5 minutes to cook.
Simply remove the end stems and the strings of each pod, throw them in a large skillet with some olive oil and saute for 3-5 few minutes with salt and freshly ground pepper until they’re crisp-tender. And that’s it, they’re ready to serve!
Serve immediately and Enjoy!
For another thoroughly delicious way to enjoy your fresh sweet peas, be sure to try our:
What are lady peas?
Lady peas belong to the cowpea family, and are similar to black eyed peas. Like all peas, lady peas originate from a pod. Native to the southern United States, Africa, and parts of Asia, lady peas (as well as all cowpeas) thrive in hot and dry climates. The distinguishing factor is size and taste—lady peas are smaller and sweeter than other cowpeas. Lady peas go by a number of names, including lady cream peas, lady cowpeas, conch peas, and zipper cream peas.
How to Cook Pea Pods Without a Steamer
Cooking pea pods is not necessary since they are sweet and crisp when served raw, but some recipes call for them to be served hot. While steaming pea pods is the preferred method because it enhances their flavor and color without leaching out too many nutrients, you don't need a steamer basket to cook pea pods to the desired crisp-tender state. A quick bath in boiling water or a few minutes in the microwave cooks them just fine.