Native to Central Asia, peas belong to the leguminous family of vegetables. Formerly consumed only in their fully ripened and dried form, i.e. as pulses, peas are now mostly consumed green - in other words, prior to maturity. They are delicious when fresh and in season even though most of the crops are canned or frozen. In France, peas are harvested before reaching full maturity (when green) between May and July. There are two varieties of peas: snow peas, which are eaten whole, pod and all, and "wrinkled" peas, which are larger and sweeter and need to be shelled.
If consumed when freshly picked, peas are an excellent source of vitamins B(B1, B3, B5, B6, B9), vitamin C (32 mg/100 g), carotenoids with antioxidant properties (lutein and zeaxanthin), as well as minerals and trace elements (magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, potassium). Peas contain proportionally less water and more carbohydrates than green vegetables (about 12 g/100 g). Their nutritional content provides a greater sense of fullness than that of traditional green vegetables. They should ideally be mixed with other green vegetables (e.g. spinach, green beans, or broccoli) to reduce the glycemic load, or eaten with whole grains for better absorption of micronutrients, particularly vegetable proteins. Moreover, snow peas have edible pods that are very rich in vegetable proteins and fibre. They are also more beneficial if cooked quickly (steamed or stir-fried to benefit from all the nutrients).
Peas are usually eaten cooked. They can be cooked with garden vegetables, with bacon, or combined in a stir-fry with green vegetables. They are traditionally served with meat and poultry dishes. A favourite ingredient in world cuisine, their texture and flavour go hand in hand with spices such as curry, turmeric, garlic, and ginger, or herbs such as mint and coriander. Peas give consistency and richness to cold or hot soups, eliminating the need to add potatoes. Snow peas are usually steamed and can be eaten in salads seasoned with sesame or avocado oil. They can also be stir-fried or used in a risotto.
Fresh green peas will not keep for very long as they harden rapidly. It is best to purchase them fresh in their pods and to shell them just before cooking; alternatively, you can choose frozen peas.
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