Oh snap! Peas are a hit as April’s harvest of the month. | TheUnion.com

Oh snap! Peas are a hit as April’s harvest of the month.

Amanda Thibodeau
Special to The Union

It is said that peas are among Earth's oldest vegetables. Apparently, the oldest pea ever found was nearly 3,000 years old and discovered on the border of Burma and Thailand. (Can you imagine finding this pea? How did they even know it was a pea and not an ancient pebble?)

A staple in early times, peas were left in Egyptian tombs, hot pea soup was sold on the streets of ancient Athens, and fried peas were sold like popcorn at the Roman theatres. In fact, the Romans grew over 37 varieties of peas! Even Thomas Jefferson grew 30 varieties of peas at his home.

The latest iteration in the historic journey of the pea is right here in Nevada County. That's right: 3,000 years of history have lead up to April's glorious "Harvest of the Month" — the snap pea. Tasted in over 300 classrooms, at the NU salad bar and featured in school lunch at 3 high schools, thousands of students crunched their way through this spring treat, all the while asking for more.

NITROGEN

A member of the legume family, peas help to enrich the soil with nitrogen. Members of this family take atmospheric nitrogen and "fix" it in their roots in special nodules through a symbiotic partnership with a type of bacteria called rhizobia. In addition to benefitting the soil, peas are also a great source of Vitamin C, Thiamine, Vitamin K and fiber. No wonder the Romans planted so many different varieties of peas! There are a few different types of peas that we eat — ones that are dried once fully mature (pea soup), ones that are shelled (think frozen peas) and ones that are eaten fresh and immature (snow peas, snap peas).

LUNCHROOM TASTING

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Kelli Wood, who runs the salad bar at Nevada Union High School, definitely noticed that students were more likely to try the peas after taking part in a lunch room tasting. Students from the NU EcoClub helped to sample peas during lunch and Wood said their tastings made a difference in students choosing to add peas to their salads at lunch. In addition to the salad bar, these peas were also featured in an Asian Noodle Bowl at NU and a marinated Asian Pea salad at Bear River, Silver Springs and SAEL.

Try this easy, flavorful salad (and go ahead and ask yourself why school lunch wasn't like this when you were growing up!).

Theresa Ruiz's Marinated Asian Snap Pea Salad

Served at Bear River, Silver Springs and SAEL High School cafeterias

1 pound snap or snow peas, trimmed and blanched

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon hot Chinese mustard

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Mix together and let marinate for at least 15 minutes. Serve chilled.

Amanda Thibodeau is director of the Farm to School program at Sierra Harvest.

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