Amanda Thibodeau: ‘Harvest of the Month’ — peas
Special to The Union
“I eat my peas with honey; I’ve done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny, But it keeps them on the knife.”
If it wasn’t clear, April’s “Harvest of the Month” featured vegetable is peas. Shelling peas to be exact — not served with honey — no, they’re sweet enough as they are.
Some 6,700 local students at 22 schools can attest to this fact, as peas were sampled in 290 classrooms across Nevada County.
These luscious peas came from JSM Organics out of Aromas, California.
Farmer Javier Zamora planted these peas back in December, and they have been growing in the cool coastal climate — ready just in time for spring.
Here are a few facts you may not know about the pea:
It is said that peas are among Earth’s oldest vegetables and are thought to have originated from Middle Asia. The oldest pea ever found was nearly 3,000 years old and discovered on the border of Burma and Thailand.
The Romans grew over 37 varieties of peas.
Peas are best grown in late spring and like to grow in cooler temperatures.
English peas or Shelling peas can be eaten straight out of the pod. Some varieties you eat the pod as well (snap peas and snow peas).
One serving of peas contains as much as Vitamin C as two large apples and more fiber than a slice of wheat bread!
7,175 peas were once eaten in a minute with chopsticks by Janet Harris of Sussex, England in 1984. This was a world record!
According the to the British, the “proper” etiquette for eating peas is to squash them on the back of your fork.
Peas are at their height of sweetness right after they are harvested. As soon as the pods are picked from the plants, the sugars in the peas start to transform into starch. To preserve flavor, peas are frozen within 3 hours from the time of harvest.
Only 5 percent of peas produced are sold fresh. The rest are either canned or frozen.
Peas are green because they are harvested when not fully mature. If peas are left to ripen, they turn yellow in color.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, peas were considered a luxury and were very expensive. She had them specially imported for the royal table.
The “Father of Modern Genetics,” Gregor Mendel, conducted his experiments and research studies using peas.
Aside from the pods, the young tendrils that grow from the leaves of the pea vine are also edible. In China, young pea leaves are stir-fried and consumed as a delicacy.
The world’s largest producer of peas is India- there they call pea “mutter” or “matar” and they are a staple of many dishes.
Peas have recently been hailed as health food. One of the primary reasons for this is the presence of a phytonutrient called coumestrol, which effectively lowers the risk of stomach cancer.
Even though they take more work than your average vegetable (shucking anyone?) these seasonal specialties are definitely worth it.
Engage your children in opening the pods — but watch out, you might not have any left for dinner. Or, save the evening hassle and pack them in a lunch.
Here’s a quick recipe that highlights some of the best of the early spring season:
Pea Salad with Radishes and Feta Cheese
Recipe courtesy of Epicurious
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
4 cups fresh shelled peas (from about 4 pounds peas in pods) or 1 pound frozen petite peas
1 bunch radishes, trimmed, halved, thinly sliced
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)
3 cups fresh pea tendrils, coarsely chopped, or pea sprouts* (optional)
*Available at natural foods stores and Asian markets.
Heat small skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and toast until aromatic and slightly darker, about 2 minutes. Cool; grind finely in spice mill. Whisk lime juice, honey, and cumin in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil; stir in dill. Season dressing with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature.
Cook peas in pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 5 minutes for fresh (or about 2 minutes for frozen). Drain; rinse under cold water, then drain well. Transfer to large bowl. Add radishes, feta, and dressing; toss. Season with salt and pepper. If using pea tendrils or sprouts, divide among bowls. Divide salad among bowls. Serve.
Amanda Thibodeau is Farm-to-School Director at Sierra Harvest.
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