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All About Green Peas
When I was small my family planted rows of peas in their garden.  An even
larger supply was free.  Trucks carrying harvested loads of pea vines would drive down Main Street to the canning factory.  Village children lined up at the curb and shouted in chorus: "Give us some peeeeeas."   Most of the riders atop the loads would toss down a pitchfork full.  If they were very generous, I knew I should take some home; if they were stingy, or there were too many kids, we just ate them raw.

We consumed lots of peas when I was small, especially after freezing came to town.   A grocery opened a large freezer area in the rear, where one could rent lockers, and Mother froze a lot from her garden for winter consumption.  Peas were one of the first items taken from the garden in summer, when mother dug up a mound to get the tiny potatoes, and picked some of the earliest peas.  With a little onion sautéed in real butter, rich milk, a little salt and some black pepper, and we had a tasty soup that told us summer was really here. 

My brother Nathan, on about his first birthday and already talking, spilled some food from his plate onto the tray of his high chair. Studying the mess, he poked at one veggie and said "See that pea?"  Parents immediately jumped up, shouting "He said a complete sentence..."  We didn't hear the last of their bragging for some time!

Peas are one of the earliest cultivated crops in many cultures from India to Europe.  Pease Porridge, as in the childhood rhyme, "Pease Porridge Hot...." was made with dried peas. Indeed, archaeologists have unearthed peas that were over 7000 years old!  Peas actually saved many people in England from starvation in a great famine of 1555; it was one crop that did not fail.

Peas were one of the first vegetables to be canned commercially, by the Campbell Soup Company in 1870, and was an ingredient in the first TV dinner, produced by Swanson in 1953. 

Fresh peas are delicious, but a big job to prepare.  How well I remember Aunt Amelia sitting with an apron full of just-picked peas, a bucket at her feet and a pan or bowl on her lap.  Pick up a pod, crack it, run the thumb up the pod to shell the peas, toss the pod into the bucket, and do it again.  And again.  On the farm, the sweet pods went to fatten the pigs; little went to waste.  The pods make great compost also.

Frozen peas are processed at the peak of freshness, and have pretty much the same nutritional value as fresh ones.  Buy young, petite or small green peas; larger older peas are best for soup.  Place frozen ones in a colander and rinse under running warm water to take off the freezer taste.  If you plan to serve older ones plain, add a spoonful of sugar to the cooking water for a better taste.  Salt them after cooking only; salting ahead of time makes them tough.  Canned are better than nothing, but have neither the nutrition, texture, nor the flavor of fresh or frozen ones.

Peas are high in folate, one of the essential nutrients for good health.  They contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals, protein and a healthy dose of fiber.  They are reported to lower cholesterol, help prevent blood clots, reduce the risk of cataracts and fight anemia.   According to an article in AARP, one serving of fresh sweet peas has more vitamin C than two large apples; more protein than a whole egg or a tablespoon of peanut butter.  They are legumes, related to healthy beans, and even people that reject beans usually will eat peas. 

Peas can be eaten plain with a little salt and butter, in a cream sauce, added to potato salad, stews, soup and casseroles, and as a colorful, tasty nutritious addition to many recipes.  What would chicken pot pie be without peas!

If they try to roll away, remember...

I eat my peas with honey,
I've done it all my life,
It makes my peas taste funny,
But it keeps them on my knife!

Fresh Pea Soup
Nutritional Facts
Puree of Pea
Hawaiian Salad

 

 

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