In recent news, our President admonished his opposition in Congress with a vegetable reference. He said “So we might as well do it now. Pull off the bandaid. Eat our peas. Now is the time to do it. If not now, when?”
Of course, he was using the eating of the peas as an example of something that children do begrudgingly, because nobody really likes peas. Grown ups know that they must, so they get it over with, because it is good for them.
We know what he meant.
So, as a pea lover, I’d like to make the case for the maligned pea. Sure, if he is talking about slimy canned peas, well, that I can understand. Cooked to a gunmetal green, boiled and dumped on the plate, those guys turn off even a veg lover like me. But right now, I can buy fresh English peas at the Farmers Market, often already shelled. These peas are as different from icky canned peas as they can be. Sweet, creamy, full of pleasant flavors, they are a real treat. As long as you rush right home and cook them-because if you wait too long the sugars turn to starches, and you might as well be eating dried spit peas.
Maybe those are the peas he was talking about.
He’s right that we really should eat our peas, they are genuinely quite good for you.
And, 1 cup has 22% of the vitamin A, 97% of the Vitamin C, 16% of the folate and 12% of the iron you need for the day. 8g protein makes them a good source of vegetable protein, too.
Of course, the pea also comes to us in Snow pea and Snap peas, with their crunchy edible pods. These are the best for stir fries, salads, and just eating out of hand. Unlike the fragile shell pea, the edible pod peas stay sweet and snappy longer.
Thanks to Asian grocers, the pea shoot has started moving into the mainstream. Sweet, tender tips of pea plants taste like peas, and are delicious in salads, sandwiches, and stir fries. Look for them by the sprouts.
To really enjoy my shelled peas, I simply steamed them for about 5 minutes, then I made a quick pesto. A clove of garlic, a handful of basil, salt and olive oil to make a thick paste, and voila, I had a lovely lunch.
Sweet Pea Pesto Crostini
This makes about 1 1/2 cups of thick, spreadable pesto. If you thinned it out with more oil or some veggie stock you could sauce pasta with it.
2 cups of shelled English Peas
1 cup fresh basil leaf
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
extra virgin olive oil
toasted baguette slices
1. Steam the peas until tender, about 5 minutes. Run cold water over them to stop the cooking and let cool. In a food processor, mince the basil and garlic, then add the peas and process to chop finely. Add salt and gradually add olive oil to make a spreadable paste.
2. Smear on toasted baguette and serve topped with pea shoots.