Spring peas add a seasonal touch to meals

These tasty vegetables bring a fresh, sweet taste and a bright green color to springtime dinners

Few vegetables bring spring to mind like fresh peas.

Their bright green color and sweet taste are a reminder of all the earth has to offer. 

Whether used raw or cooked, shelled or whole, peas add flavor, texture and color. They also provide essential nutrients and are an excellent source of vitamins K and B6 and folic acid, all crucial to bone strength and cardiovascular health.

In general, there are three types of fresh peas available in spring — English, sugar snap and snow.

English peas, also known as shelling or garden peas, are the most common. As implied, the pods are inedible and they must be shelled before using.

Sugar snap peas have a thicker, edible shell. They make a distinctive snap when the shell is broken, and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Snow peas are flatter and thinner than the other varieties, and are often used in Chinese cooking. There is no need to shell them.

When using fresh peas, it’s important to eat them as soon as possible. As time passes, the sugar in them converts to starch so they lose some of their taste. 

Look for fresh peas  that are small, bright green, tender and sweet. The pods should look crisp and squeak when rubbed together. 

Unshelled peas can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator as long as three days.

Rinse the pods under cold running water, then rub the pods gently to remove soil. To shell them, snap off the stem end of the pod, then pull the green string running along the inner seam of the pod. Pop the pod open and push out the peas. Do not wash the shelled peas before cooking.

Frozen peas are an easy substitute for fresh peas. To thaw them quickly, place the peas in a colander in the sink and run them under warm water.

When buying peas, look for medium-size pods that are verdant and pliant. They will be tender and full of flavor.

Peas are a tasty companion to eggs, bacon, beef, chicken, lamb, pork, shellfish, smoked fish, white fish and and just about any other spring vegetable, including asparagus, onions, carrots, parsnips and new potatoes.

Following are a few recipes using peas from foodandwine.com.

Cucumber and Baby Pea Salad

1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/4 cup finely shredded basil leaves


Freshly ground pepper

1 pound frozen baby peas, thawed

3 large seedless cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick

In a large bowl, whisk yogurt with the lemon juice and olive oil. Add the parsley and basil and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the peas and cucumbers and serve.

Green Pea Samosas

1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for 


1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon minced seeded jalapeño

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pound frozen green peas, thawed

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses, optional


8 frozen empanada wrappers, thawed

Cilantro chutney and tamarind chutney, for serving

Heat one tablespoon oil in a medium skillet. Add cumin seeds and cook over moderate heat about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add ginger, jalapeño, coriander and cayenne and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add green peas and water and cook five minutes, until peas are tender and most of the water has evaporated. 

Transfer mixture to a food processor and cool slightly. Add cilantro and pomegranate molasses and pulse until the peas are finely chopped. Season with salt.

Arrange empanada wrappers on a work surface and brush the edges with water. Divide filling among the wrappers. Fold the dough over and pinch from the bottom to the center to form a cone. Fold the top of the dough down to meet the edges and pinch well to seal, forming a triangular dumpling.

In a deep, medium skillet, heat 3/4 inch of oil to 350 degrees. Fry samosas over moderately high heat for five minutes, turning once, until golden and crisp. Drain on a paper towel–lined rack. 

Serve with cilantro and tamarind chutneys.

Peas and Pea Shoots With Spring Onions and Mint

1 pound frozen peas

1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 medium spring onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick


3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups lightly packed tender pea shoots or small watercress sprigs

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook peas about three minutes, until they are just tender. Drain.

In the same saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onions and a pinch of salt, cover and cook over moderately low heat about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Stir in peas, cover and cook about one minute, until heated through. 

Stir in butter, one tablespoon at a time. Remove from the heat and stir in the pea shoots until wilted. Stir in the mint, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Orecchiette With Pancetta, Peas and Fresh Herbs

1 pound orecchiette


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 large jalapeño, seeded and minced

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese

Freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons snipped chives

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons chopped mint

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

Melt butter in a large, deep skillet. Add the pancetta and cook over moderately high heat about five minutes, stirring, until it just begins to brown. Add garlic and jalapeño and cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the peas and toss to coat. 

Add pasta along with the reserved pasta water and the cheese. Season generously with pepper and cook over moderately high heat about two minutes, until the sauce is thick and creamy. Stir in the chives, parsley and mint and serve right away.



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