Lots of our CSA picker-uppers were mystified by the bag of garden peas in the share-boxes this week.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. A quick web search revealed that 95% of all green peas are sold frozen or canned. I had no idea. There were always peas in our garden, and I still grow them every year – they’re generally the first seeds I plant. They’re a space hog with only one quick crop, though, so every pod is precious. Believe me, I’ve made every mistake you can make with them. Let me help you out.
Three Rules for Peas
1. Don’t shell them until you’re ready to use them.
Store them in the fridge in a perforated bag or container – something that lets a little air circulate (I’ve had them get slimy in a day if they’re sealed up tight). Shuck the peas right before you need them. Don’t know how? Grab a pod, squeeze the seam at one end, splay the halves open, and run your thumbs down the middle to free the seeds. Need a visual? See here.
2. Use them within 4 days after they’re picked.
Some sources say you have a week or more before they turn into bland little starch bombs, but I’m telling you, the sooner you eat them, the better. Heck, for years, most of my crop never even made it inside the house; we’d just pull them off the vine and snack away while we were doing other garden work. If you’ve never had a truly fresh, raw pea, you’ll be shocked by how sweet it is. Besides eating them out of hand or sprinkled in salads, try these favorites.
- Throw a handful in with pasta, like I did the other day.
- Steam them for 12-14 minutes. Add a little butter and an herb (try mint or tarragon). Divine.
- Whirl them up. In a food processor, pulse together a half-cup of fresh (or thawed) peas, a clove or two of garlic (or a scape), a splash of lemon juice, and a handful of mint. Stream in some good olive oil until you get a consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper. Guess what? It’s pea green. And it’s a crazy good base for pesto (add a little grated parm and toss with pasta, or add ricotta & stuff it into ravioli). Or serve it as is (or with a little yogurt stirred in) for a pita-chip or veggie dip. Or dollop a spoonful onto toasts spread with fresh ricotta or chèvre.
3. On Day 5, freeze what you haven’t used yet.
Shell and wash the peas. Blanch them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Drain, and then shock them in an ice-water bath to stop them from cooking any further. Drain them again, really well, then load them into vacuum-seal bags or zip-style freezer bags (just squeeze out as much air as you can). Don’t forget to label them with a date. Some food-preservation guides say you’ve got up to a year-and-a-half, but I find they’re best within 6 months.
There you go. The season’s short. Mind your peas. Enjoy some now. Set some aside for later. Make Blanche proud.