Wednesday, May 30

Minding My Peas

Eat your peas. That's one thing my mother never had to say to me. I always liked peas, even as a little girl. Why? Probably because my mom never overcooked them, and she always used fresh peas (well, maybe frozen occasionally, but never canned).

All varieties of peas have been available lately in Southern California, and their full flavor and crisp texture is incomparable. In addition to the classic English pea, there is the snow pea and, my favorite, the sugar snap pea.

Now, sometimes peas can be a bit complicated. Do I eat the pod? Can I eat it raw? What exactly does shuck mean? Thankfully, a farmer at our local market recently put up signs:



No one ever has questions about the snow peas; they’re low maintenance.

Is you should ever find yourself in this situation (and don’t have a hand written sign to help you), here’s a pea primer. Pictured below from left to right are the English pea, the snow pea, and the sugar snap pea.

The basic garden pea was cultivated in England, which is why it’s called an “English” pea. When buying English peas, look for plump, deep green, rather heavy pods, as these will have the largest peas. They can be eaten raw or cooked.

To shell the peas, simply snap off the top and pull down, until the stringy spine is removed and the pod opens up; remember to throw away the inedible pod. There are two things you should know about shelling peas:

1. They’re like spinach. You need to start off with a lot more than you think you’ll need; then you should have just enough. In general, 1 pound of peas in their pods yields about 1 cup of shelled peas.

2. Don’t shell peas by yourself. It's no fun. Plus, if you do it alone, then there won't be anyone to prevent you from eating all of the peas before you can make your recipe. Don't laugh. It happened to me. I had to buy more.

Snow peas are typically associated with Asian cuisine; this is no coincidence, since historically, they have been cultivated in Asian countries and are also called Chinese peapods. Ever wonder why they’re flat? It’s because they're harvested while the peas are still underdeveloped. Look for snowpeas that are bright green, flat, and almost translucent. They are entirely edible and can be eaten raw or cooked.

What happens when you cross an English pea and a snow pea? You get the best pea of all: the sugar snap pea. These are crisp and sweeter than English peas and can be eaten raw or cooked (but only briefly, or the flavor and texture will suffer). When selecting sugar snap peas, look for puffed up, bright green pods. Don't worry if the pods have some white scratch marks on them; my local farmer says that's normal. Just remember to “snap” the top of the pea back and pull until you remove the stringy spine on both sides of the pod.

Though I make many dishes that highlight each of these peas, today I decided to share one that includes all three. Using the freshest dill you can find and freshly squeezed orange juice elevates this warm salad to something special. This salad could also be made using all raw vegetables and substituting red onions for the shallots and some olive oil and vinegar for the butter. It's also my submission to Lis of La Mia Cucina and Kelly of Sass and Veracity who are co-hosting Salad Stravaganza.

Warm Three Pea and Radish Salad
Makes 4 side servings.
Print recipe only here.

2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp butter
1 ½ cup radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (or carton juice)
A couple of pinches of orange zest
2 cups snow peas
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 cup shelled English peas
½ cup fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt butter. Add the shallot; sauté 2-3 minutes. Add radishes, and sauté 1 minute more. Add the orange juice and zest. Once it begins to heat up and bubble, lower the heat, and add the snow peas and sugar snap peas, and cook 1 minute. Add the English peas, and cook another 30 seconds. Turn off heat as peas are best when al dente. Add the fresh dill, and season generously with salt and pepper. Garnish with orange zest, if desired.

Note: If you’d like the dressing a little bit thicker, then simply dissolve about 1 tsp of cornstarch in a little bit of water and add with the orange juice.

Serve as a side salad or over a cooked grain, such as couscous, for a more complete meal.

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Anonymous said...

What a fun post and what a GORGEOUS salad! Just the kind of food I like. Thanks!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

What a great pea primer! Thanks, Susan!

Stella said...

Thanks for such an informative post Susan:)
Contrary to you, I hated peas when I was a kid, I hated its texture. But I'm okay with them now, & love the snow pea best;)
woo! your salad rocks:)

Asha said...

Great write up and delicious salad!I love red radishes in salad.

Mikaela said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mikaela said...

Awesome - thanks for the pea lesson! Your salad looks lovely, an excellent entry for the Salad Stravaganza, I'm sure :)

foodette said...

I have always been a fan of peas, but have never shelled my own fresh english peas. I have always eaten them frozen. This looks like an amazing way to incorporate all three types of peas into one delicious dish.


Patricia Scarpin said...

Susan, I like peas a lot, too. Your salad is delicious, radish is another of my favorite vegetables.

Peas are really important - remember that video by Pink Floyd?? The teacher's wife MADE him eat all his peas. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the great tips, Susan! This salad looks amazing.

You know, I've never been a fan of peas, knowing mainly the frozen variety. But last weekend, my wife Marion got some English peas at a produce market and, as our errands continued, began shelling and eating them in the car. I reluctantly tried a podful and became immediately addicted. What an amazing difference from their shriveled frozen brethren!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I love this post! From the time I was a little kid, I have craved peas! What a fresh and elegant salad!

bazu said...

Aww, the photos in this post are just gorgeous. You have outdone yourself, Susan! Vive le pea!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Reading you and the other California bloggers is like coming attractions for those of us on the East Coast. First cherries and now peas...I can't wait!

Sara said...

delicious pictures! great information too.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea there were three kinds of peas, I was only familiar with the snow pea and sugar snap. In fact I didn't know which was which, just the flat kind and fat kind. The peas are my favorite part so I'm really glad I found out about english peas. Thanks for such a great post! And I hate frozen and canned peas too, they taste nothing like fresh ones.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Christine-Oh, I'm so pleased!

Lydia-You're quite welcome!

Valentina-I think a lot of people grow to like peas.

Asha-They add a little peppery flavor and a lot of crunch.

Mikaela-No problem!

Foodette-Once you do, you'll be hooked. I promise!

Patricia-Ha, I don't remember that one. But, she was a good teacher, huh?

Terry B-See what I mean about the raw shelled peas? They're amazing!

T.W.-Yeh! Another life-long pea lover!

Bazu-Aw, "shucks." Thanks for the sweet words. ;)

Lisa-The funny thing is, I felt like I was "late" with peas since we've had them for a few weeks.


Amy-There is a remarkable difference in taste; once you eat fresh peas, it's hard to eat anything else.

Anonymous said...

yum! i loves me peas too. shudder to think of peas in a can...

isnt it so neat how the markets here you can buy then depodded ready to go! i love it too :)

this looks refreshing like summer!

Chris said...

Love peas! Thanks for all the gread info! And, another fab recipe. :)

Lis said...

Fantabulous salad, Susan! Love the peas :D

Thanks so much for submitting to Salad Stravaganza! I can't wait to try this - and that dressing sounds phenomenal. Yay!


Meeta K. Wolff said...

Susan, I loved (and still do) peas too. The Indian cooking uses fresh peas quite often and I remember I would sit with my grandma cracking the pods and eating them raw!!
The cool thing is I just posted a pea dish on my blog too. Now I am gonna link to yours for all the pea info ;-))

Lisa Johnson said...

This salad looks so good! I love sugar snap peas! They are so addictive! I could eat a ton of them!

Anonymous said...

Me an' peas....hmmm, I don't know what to say. LOVE sugar snaps....LOVE them. Regular peas?? Meh!

I have, to my honor, never eaten freshly shucked peas and could probably enter into culinary detective mode and give it a shot to see what happens.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such an informative post on peas! I love them but I can only find the snow pea here...and maybe once in a blue moon the sugar snap variety. But I'll keep my eyes peeled! I would love to make your salad...

Anonymous said...

I have always loved peas too! Some of my favorite childhood memories are sitting around the table with my mom and sisters shucking the peas out of their pods.

Burcu said...

great post on peas. I loved you warm salad idea!

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan - what a gorgeous salad! I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for fresh peas - I used to love eating them raw and shelled from the garden - a habit I still have to this day. I totally agree with your assessment of not shelling them by yourself for this very reason. :)

MeloMeals said...

Beautiful photos as usual and what a recipe! Maybe they'll have some peas at the farmer's market soon so I can try this. I KNOW I'd love it.

urban vegan said...

Hooray for spirng and peas.

Nabeela said...

I loved the primer post...I haven't tried snow peas yet, but will try soon if my farmers market carries it.
I loved the pictures too!!

Inne said...

What a lovely story Susan, it took me right back to my childhood years. My parents grew peas in the garden and of course I was made to shell them every year. Which I hated at the time but I do kind of miss it now. And of course the upside was eating them straight from the pod. And looking for the occasional little worms peaking out :)

Susan said...

I don't mind shucking peas alone. It's good therapy, like popping plastic bubble wrap. What a fun post and a great little salad.

Toni said...

I have a patient who grows sugar snap peas in his garden. I just saw him Wednesday, and he promised he would bring some in to me. The only problem with making the salad is that when he brings me those peas, they never make it home. They're gone by the time I leave work!

But we DO have a farmer's market close by, and I can actually buy the 3 varieties. Thanks for the great recipe (as usual!)...Looking forward to trying it.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Aria-I know, canned peas are the worst. Sorry. But it's true.

Chris-That's sweet of you to say.:)

Lis-Oh, it was my pleasure. :)

Meeta-What a wonderful coincidence. Thank you so much for the link. :)

Anali-I think I have eaten a ton.;0

Kate-What are you waiting for? Go try some! Now! ;)

Joey-Sugar snaps are my favorite; I hope you find some!

Kristen-I'm glad to hear that; they bring back wonderful memories for me too.

Burcu-I'm so glad!

Gilly-Plus, it's just more fun!

Melody-I hope you get some too!

Urban Vegan-Hooray!

Nabeela-I'm sure you'll love them!

Inne-Fortunately, I didn't get any worms in this batch! Thanks for the kind words!

Susan-You've got great will power then! ;)

Toni-I know what you mean!

Anonymous said...

what great info! I never knew the difference between the peas until I read this. Thanks so much!

Deb said...

Aren't we lucky to have so much beatutiful & fresh produce available year round??? Looks delish!

Deborah Dowd said...

Fabulous salad! Peas and radishes- it sounds like a great combination - sweet and peppery!

Jacqueline Meldrum said...

What a good post!
I have to beg to differ about the english peas, I always go for slimmer pods as these hold lovely, baby sweet peas, that I love to graze on! Although I don't cook this type of pea (there are never any left to cook with), I suppose If you were cooking them you would go for a fatter pod!

wheresmymind said...

How funny...we just made a fun dish last night with sugar SP's!

Anonymous said...

I found some! I'm going to try this! Hooray :) You are a lucky charm :)

Chubbypanda said...

Eep! Save the English pea shells! There's a great French soup you can make from them. I'll post the recipe one of these days.

Lucy said...

Lovely pea shots. Great salad.

Love the raw crunch of sugar snaps in anything. Great with coconut milk and Thai flavours.

janelle said...

I really, really appreciate the all pea low-down. Love peas!

Linda said...

my boy's fav veg is the snow pea. i'll have to try this tonight. he also is the kinda guy that loves snacking on raw radishes ;) perfect!!!

Anonymous said...

Sugar snap peas are my favorite variety, but I like the other too. This was such a great post, from the photos to the interesting into to your making me chuckle with the comment about shucking peas alone and eating them all as a result. You're right, it does happen. Happened to me too, lol.

Ari (Baking and Books)

ExpatChef said...

Where were you last weekend when I had a bunch of sugar snap peas and too many radishes on hand?! This looks just perfect for a late spring dish. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I always stick to stir-fry peas because I do not know how to make a salad out of it. Now I do, thanks :)
By the way, that's very clever to use all sorts of peas in one plate,

kellypea said...

What a fresh and beautiful combo. And the crunch that I imagine? Ooo-la-laaaaaa...

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Veronica-I'm so glad you found it helpful.


Deborah-Thanks! I love the peppery flavor of radishes with the sweet peas.

Holler-Ha! Another raw pea lover, huh? :)

Jeff-Is that cyber synchronicity?

Joey-Aw, me, a lucky charm? :)

Chubbypanda-I'd love to see that recipe!

Lucy-I love them in Thai dishes too.

Janelle-I'm so pleased!

Linda-Hope you both like it!

Ari-They're addictive.

Expatchef-You should have called me.;)

Shirley-You should see what else I've got up my sleeve for peas! ;)

Kellypea-Ooh-thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

Susan! I am eating this dish right now and enjoying it soooo much :) Thank you!

Jeanne said...

I have also always loved peas, even as a kid - despite the fact that until I was abotu 20 we only every had Surfmaid canned peas in our house (I think it had to do with my dad loathing vegetables with any real texture!!). I rememebr my half-sister buying fresh peas and sitting on our patio podding them in the sun - that laid the foundation for my current love of podding broad beans in our back garden on summer evenings with a glass of wine at hand ;-) This salad looks just amazing - and I am going to try and participate in the Salad Stavaganza too. Thanks for the heads-up.