Various vegetables are now ready to be harvested in many gardens. Fruits or vegetables straight from the tree or garden are generally picked at the peak of maturity. They are then eaten fresh, frozen, or canned and are quite nutritious.
Among them are peas. In the garden the variety may be of various types not found in the grocery store. All are members of the legume family and are botanically a fruit. Archaeologists have found traces of peas in ancient tombs, literature, and drawings.
The common garden green peas are known as English types. These peas may be eaten raw, cooked or frozen after being shelled from the pod. Some pods may have what I call a string down the edge which can be removed by slightly cutting the top with a knife then drawing the string down to the bottom.
Another variety is the Snow Pea or Sugar Snap Pea. The pods on these types of peas may be eaten along with the seed. These pods are bright green, thin and crisp with tender sweet seeds. Both tips of the snow pea should be pinched off just before using. These peas are also called Chinese Snow Peas and used in Oriental cooking.
The Sugar Snap Pea is a cross between the English Pea and the Snow Pea. The entire pea may also be eaten. Sugar Snap Peas are usually eaten raw or just slightly cooked to remain crisp.
A Chinese Emperor, Shu Nung, explored the countryside about 5,000 years ago looking for edible plants for eating and for medical use. To test for the edibility and not be poisonous, he first fed a serving of the peas to his dog. When his dog remained well after eating the peas, he then fed a serving of peas to a servant who also remained well. It took some years, though, for the peas to become popular but this increased when it was found the peas could be dried.
During early Atlantic crossings the immigrants ate them as a staple. The seeds were also planted in those early colonial gardens.
From 1856 to 1863 the Augustian monk, George Mendel, conducted pea experiments combining desirable traits to be achieved through cross-breeding. He was looking at heights, pod shapes,and flower positions. In his writings he used the terms “recessive” and “dominant” genes.
Peas were hybridized in the 1800s through the 1900s to produce disease resistance and improve flavor.
Among other fresh vegetables and fruits, peas may be found at local Farmer’s Markets.
Never confuse the edible peas (Pisum sativum) with the flowering annual vining sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) flowers and pods to eat. The sweet pea seeds are poisonous. They can cause paralysis, labored breathing and convulsions. The delicate looking sweet pea flowers can be part of your meal, though. Pick the flowers, place them in a vase of water and set them in the middle of the table. Enjoy them both sight- and scent-wise.
Something to think about: “I never minded shelling peas, but it is easier to purchase a bag of frozen ones at the store!” Marie
PEA AND WATER CHESTNUT CASSEROLE
1 small minced onion
1/2 medium size green pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 Tablespoons margarine
2 cups fresh green peas
1 small can water chestnuts, sliced
1 small jar chopped pimento
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Place the first 4 ingredients into a skillet. Saute a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients. Place into a 2 quart, greased casserole. Top with buttered bread crumbs.
Bake for 25 minutes at 350 F.
SNOW PEAS AND MUSHROOMS
1 to 2 Tablespoons cooking oil
2 cups fresh show peas
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
3 to 4 green onions, sliced, or 1 small white onion
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 cup water
Place oil in wok or frying pan. Heat to medium high. Add all the vegetables. Stir-fry 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and add the soy sauce and water. Cook 1 or 2 minutes longer.
10 ounce package frozen baby peas, thawed
1 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced green onion
1 head chopped cauliflower
1 cup chopped cashews
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup prepared Original Ranch dressing
5-6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Chill two to three hours before serving.