Peas may not seem like much of a seasonal treat. We can buy them year-round by the pound in the freezer section, and they adorn casseroles, no matter the season.
They add a pop of color to what would otherwise be drab dishes, but beyond that aesthetic quality, no seems to care for them very much.
Unless, that is, you are eating fresh, in-season peas.
Fresh, spring peas are so unbelievably sweet and lovely. They are one of those foods that, when purchased fresh and in-season from a local source, taste almost totally different from the shriveled and mealy supermarket freezer-aisle variety.
How to choose and store peas
When choosing fresh spring peas, look for pods that are firm and smooth. Their color should be a bright green. Avoid those that are yellowish or dull green in color.
Store in a bag in the refrigerator for up to five days, but as with almost all fresh produce, use them as soon after purchase as possible. Newly harvested peas are not only more nutritious, but also taste better. Right after they are harvested, the sugar starts converting to starch. If you’re not able to eat them right away, blanch them for about two minutes in boiling water and then freeze.
How to use fresh peas
Quick blanch fresh peas for just a few minutes in salted boiling water and toss with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt for a simple and fresh side dish. Or stir-fry them with other favorite spring veggies, like asparagus, mushrooms and leeks and brown rice for a tasty and seasonal stir-fry. Or, the next time you’re at the farmers market, fill up a big bag with peas and let them shine in this light and fresh spring pea and mint soup.
Spring pea and mint soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 leeks, chopped (white and light green parts only)
- 1 small or 1/2 large white onion, diced
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- 3 cups shelled fresh peas (about 3 pounds, unshelled)
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves plus extra for garnish, chopped
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped leeks and onion and saute until tender, about seven minutes. Pour in the stock and water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add in the peas. Cook for five minutes or just until tender. Turn off the heat and stir in the mint.
- Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender, adding in a little more stock or water if it is too thick. Transfer back to the saucepan and over low heat, stir in the creme fraiche. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve hot, garnished with extra chopped mint.