Most of our peas are eaten right off their vines from the garden tepee. When they do make it to the kitchen, they’re chopped (pods and all) and tossed into salads of pasta or grains, served with dips, lightly blanched or quickly sautéed. Their pretty white flowers and tiny leaves make a fairylike garnish.
Snow peas and snap peas are grown to eat whole. Those sweet English peas or shell peas need to be released from their pods by cracking the end and running your thumb down the seam. If you have a tangle of pea vines, simmer them in stock for a distinctive and light pea flavor.
To retain the crisp texture of peas, be careful not to overcook them. About three minutes of boiling is plenty enough for shelled and snap peas. When adding them to a risotto, stir them with the last cup of stock, right before finishing the dish. When adding them to a pasta dish, toss them in several minutes before serving. When making a soup of shell peas, cook them for about seven to 10 minutes in the stock before puréeing. Leftover cooked shell peas are wonderful puréed with a little olive oil or butter and served on crostini.
Equivalency: One pound of English peas equals about 1½ cups, shelled; 1 pound of snow or snap peas equals about 2 cups.
Beth Dooley is a Minneapolis writer and cooking instructor.