Ok forget that crazy idiom about dense fog and that really unattractive gray green color of Split Pea Soup. These peas are different. English Garden Peas are here. Another short-lived summer delight, English Garden Peas conjure up sweetness and the simplicity of an old time summer pea shelling session. Ohhh I wish I had a grandma who did that (sigh). Guess what? Peas are a great source of protein, iron and insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps to reduce cholesterol thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. So eat all your peas!
OK, how to shell: rinse, pinch the stem off with your fingernails and pull the string down the length of the pod. The pod will pop open and the peas can be pushed out of the pod with your thumb. For lazy people (believe me I’m not judging) the Farmers Markets often offer bags already shelled. But, don’t worry it really doesn’t take long to shell a batch.
You should know: use your shelled peas right away or wait to shell your peas right before you are going to use them. Once shelled they rapidly begin to lose their sweetness and become starchy.
Also, buy lots of peas! You will need about 1lb of peas in the shell to create 1 cup of shelled peas.
There are lots of simple ways to use these cute little guys pretty much just the way they are. Add variety to a summer salad by tossing in just-boiled peas or for a flavorful, light side dish, sauté’ shelled peas in olive oil with torn mint leaves. But, my favorite recipe is fresh English Garden Pea Soup. It’s refreshing and delicious. Not to mention that a bowl of this adds the most beautiful vivid green color to your table!
Fresh English Pea Soup w/ Basil Pesto
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium leek, white and light green parts, cleaned and chopped
1 medium yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup basil leaves, packed
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in medium sized pot. Add the chopped onion and leek with teaspoon of salt, sautee until translucent. Add the wine and cook until almost dry. Add the potatoes and the stock. Raise heat and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are almost falling apart. Add the peas and cook another 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and puree in a blender, or use an immersion blender, being careful not to fill above the hot foods line on the canister, until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the basil pesto (see below)
Chop the basil with the garlic, olive oil, lemon peel and a pinch of salt in a food processor until fairly smooth. Alternatively, chop by hand or use a morter and pestle to make pesto, adding the oil at the end.