PHOTO BY ERIN KUNKEL
The Health Benefits of Peas
Whether you pick them fresh from the garden or keep your freezer stocked with frozen bags, peas are a smart (and delicious!) kitchen staple. You’ll commonly encounter a few types: shelling (aka English peas), snow peas, and snap peas (also called sugar snap peas). The difference? You pop shelling peas out of the shell—hence the name—before cooking and eating, while snow peas and snap peas can typically be eaten pod and all. Take your pick: All three types of these sweet green gems offer ample nutrition, like belly-filling protein and fiber—just one cup of the shelled variety boasts about eight grams of each. Peas also offer plenty of vitamins and minerals, including immunity-boosting vitamin C and manganese, a mineral that helps maintain blood sugar levels.
How Do You Prepare Peas?
The first step in prepping peas is choosing young, fresh ones, as older peas may taste more starchy. Go for peas that have more or less uniformly green pods without blemishes. You’ll need to remove shelling peas from their pods before cooking. It’s easy to do: Just pull down on the stem, stringing it and pushing out the peas that are inside. Cook shelled peas before serving (see below) and save the pods; they can be used in a homemade vegetable broth. If using mature snap and snow peas, string these as well to minimize starchiness.
What Can You Do with Peas?
The cooking opportunities for peas are almost endless. Start with these simple dishes.
Steamed Peas: Prepping fresh peas this way will allow you to focus on their sweet taste. To steam ‘em, add an inch or so of water to a saucepan, place shelled peas in a steamer basket, and drop the basket into the pan. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the pan. Steam for two to four minutes, until tender. Toss steamed peas into a salad, or season with your favorite spices and serve as a side dish.
Sautéed Peas: Slight browning brings out the sweetness of in-shell peas. Heat a little olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add sugar snap or snow peas, plus salt and pepper to taste. Toss for three to five minutes until the peas are tender, yet crisp. Serve as a delicious side dish, or add the peas to a grain bowl with other vegetables.
Pea Crisps: Pre-packaged crisped peas can be found in stores with a pretty price tag, so why not make your own and save a few dollars? It’s easy to do: Lightly toss snap or snow peas in a small amount of oil and your favorite seasonings, such as garlic powder or sea salt. Place seasoned peas on a non-stick baking sheet and cook at 450°F (230°C) for about 20 minutes, until crisp. These crunchy peas make a wonderful standalone snack, a dipper for hummus, or a substitute for croutons in a salad.
More Pea Recipes
Hungry for more? You’ll love these pea-focused recipes!
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.