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Wednesday, July 31, 2013



The pea is usually the small seed or the seed pod of the pod fruit Pisum sativum.   The peapod is botanically a fruit since it contains seeds developed from the ovary of a pea flower.  Peas are used as a vegetable.   Peas are a cool season crop, but are available in your grocery store year round.  

In the Middle Ages field peas are constantly mentioned as a staple that kept famine at bay.  In the mid 19th century Austrian monk Gregor Mendel's observations of pea pods led to the principles of Mendelian genetics, the foundation of modern day genetics.   Green "garden" peas, eaten immature and fresh, were an innovative luxury of  Early Modern Europe.  Thomas Jefferson grew more than thirty varieties of peas on this estate.

Peas are most commonly green, but occasionally  purple or golden yellow.  Generally there are three types of peas; green peas, snow peas, and snap pears.   Canada currently is the world's largest producer of peas.  France, China, Russia, and India are also large scale producers of peas. 

When I was growing up my mother bought peas in a can.  It was not until I began working in the store that I first saw peas in a pod.   I remember them being displayed in a bushel basket  with the bottom dummied up so that with only about two inches of product  it looked like a big bushel of peas.  My mother used to tell the story about when she was a little girl and she stuck a pea up he nose and could not get it out.  Everyone tried unsuccessfully to help .  Finally, her father was able to dislodge the pea using a pair of tweezers.  She never did that again.

Today peas are usually boiled or steamed which breaks down the cell walls and makes them taste sweeter and the nutrients more bioavailable.   Peas are grown throughout the world .  Only about 5% of the peas grown are sold fresh.  The rest are frozen or canned.  Peas are one of the few members of the legume family that are commonly sold and cooked as fresh vegetables.

 Peas are starchy but high in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and lutein.   Peas are a very good source of manganese, vitamins C, K, B1 and folate.  They are a good source of vitamins B2, B3, and B6.  Peas contain a unique assortment of phytonutrients.  One of the phytonutrients, polyphenol, is being researched in connection  with stomach cancer protection.  The phytonutrients also provide us with key antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.  Intake of green peas is also associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes

If purchasing fresh peas select firm pods that are velvety and smooth.  The color should be medium green.  Avoid ones with light or dark color, or that are yellow, whitish, or speckled with gray.   Frozen peas are better able to retain texture, color, and flavor than the canned.  Both frozen and canned peas tend to be high in sodium, but you can remove some sodium by thoroughly rinsing the peas with water.   Neither frozen nor canned peas have an unlimited shelf life.  It is recommended that you consume frozen peas within 6 - 12 months of the packing date.   Snow peas should be flat and without blemish.  The small ones tend to be sweeter.  Snap peas can be snapped open to see if they are fresh.  Snap peas should be bright green, firm, and plump.

Peas are not just a vegetable side.  They can be added to green salads, or used in recipes.

So...... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.  


Simple but good

Pasta with Peas:

1 pkg. of frozen peas, thoroughly rinsed.
1  can (14.5 ounces) chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1lb of medium shell pasta
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt, pepper and parmesan to taste

Cook pasta according to directions on box
In a skillet sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until soft, add rinsed peas, salt and pepper to taste and continue to sauté for about 2 - 3 minutes.
Add broth to onion, garlic and peas mixture, cover and simmer about 5 minutes
Add cook drained pasta to the skillet mixture, sprinkle with parmesan and serve.