Petite Local Peas

local peas

Local peas are delicious! We love eating them fresh while walking through the farmers market.

Peas have gotten a bad rap over time. An overcooked pea, past it’s prime, is not delicious at all. A fresh local pea, raw or barely cooked, is fabulous.

Peas are definitely one of those spring vegetables you want to grow yourself or buy locally!

Peas.org says peas are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, thiamine (B1), iron and phosphorus. They also have a lot of protein, carbohydrate and fiber and are low in fat.

A 100 calories serving of peas contains more protein than a whole egg or tablespoon of peanut butter. Just one serving of peas contains as much vitamin C as two large apples!

What do Local Peas Taste Like?

Local peas taste like springtime. They are sweet and plump, as long as they are fresh. Soon after they are picked their sugars turn rapidly to starch, and they become mealy and bland.

A fresh pea is sweet and delicious. They are great right out of the pod, or still in the pod if they are sugar snap peas. Look for them at your Baltimore farmers markets in spring.

Growing and Buying Local Peas

Peas are one of the first vegetables that grow in spring, and have a limited growing season. They are planted as soon as the ground can be worked even if snow is still a threat.

You want to plant them 4-6 weeks before your last spring frost date, or early March for much of Maryland.

Peas are one of those plants that grow their own nitrogen, so they don’t need a lot of fertilizer and are great companion plants for other vegetables. They may need trellising, depending on the variety.

When buying local peas, look for plump, green pods. Don’t buy them shelled, even if it is easier to do so. The shells tell you about the freshness of the peas.

If in doubt, ask your farmer if you can try a pea or two. Sometimes a pretty pod may still hold disappointing peas. Make sure you are getting the best.

Types of Local Peas

There are three common varieties of local peas you might find at the market. These are snow, green (or English or shelling or garden peas), and snap peas.

Snow peas are found commonly in stir fries. They have thin pods with tiny peas inside. They are great raw or stir fried. Remove the tough fibers along the seams before eating or cooking.

Green peas are peas that are shelled before eating, and what you will find frozen or canned in the supermarket. The pods are removed, and the peas are firm and round. You can eat green peas raw or cooked, but don’t overcook them.

Snap peas (or sugar snap peas), are a combination of snow and green peas. Their pods are edible and tasty, but they look more like green peas. You can eat the whole pod, either raw or cooked. They are usually super sweet.

There are varieties of peas out there with purple or reddish pods. Look for them at your farmers market!

Storing your Local Peas

Fresh peas are really best eaten as soon as possible. You can wrap them in a wet towel, in the pods, in the fridge, for maybe 2 or 3 days. Their sugars turn to starch quickly.

Local peas are one of those things you will want to eat immediately or plan to cook with the day you buy them. Honestly, when buying sugar snap peas, we eat them on the way home!

For peas that need shelling, don’t shell them until you plan to use them. Their fresh taste will become floury and mealy quickly.

If you can’t eat them fast, then you can blanch them in salt water, cool them quickly, and freeze them for up to 12 months. Frozen peas are great snacks cold, or cooked later.

Freeze your peas after drying them off, in a thin layer on a sheet pan. Then pack them into a freezer safe container for later.

Though freezing is easiest, you can try pressure canning or drying your peas as well.

Local Pea Recipes

For green peas, you need to make sure you have time to shell them. Snow and snap peas need their fibers removed, and then can be eaten or cooked as desired.

The pea is thought to have originated from the Middle East, and originally was eaten as a dried product, cooked into a porridge or soup. Modern times have us eating the immature peas as well, cooking them and adding them to soups and casseroles.

Stir Fried Beef with Snap Peas is a very tasty looking Asian inspired recipe that uses snap peas whole.

This Radish and Pea Salad has a homemade lemon dressing and uses spring radishes to go along with your local peas. You should find both at your local farmers market.

Asparagus, another spring vegetable, is featured with local peas in this Pea, Asparagus, and Fava Bean Salad.

I also like the sound of this Strawberry, Almond, and Pea Salad. It features a spring fruit, this time strawberries.

Local Pea Trivia

Almanac.com say there is a legend about peas involving King Edward I of England. Allegedly he loved green peas so much that he had six serfs shelling them during pea season. The serf with the “greenest thumb” won a prize.

The origin of modern genetics started with Gregor Johann Mendell and his peas. He learned that characteristics of the parent were passed on to offspring in specific mathematical ratios. Dominant and recessive traits were learned about.

Conclusion

Since peas are best fresh, it’s easy to understand how they became a hated vegetable when people overcooked them or bought them old.

Many vegetables store well, but peas are not one of them. Buying them local and fresh is the best option!

Visit one of the Baltimore farmers markets opening soon to find peas and learn to enjoy them!

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