For the Love of Peas

Ah, the poor, poor pea.

There are three things working against the pea. One, most adults born in the 70s-80s have terrible memories of drab, overcooked canned peas served as an obligatory green side. Two, peas seem to have bypassed the adult diet and have been relegated to feeding babies and the elderly by the sheer nature of their tendency to go to mush so effectively. Third, I think the media has really promoted the idea of peas as this stigmatized vegetable (Give peas a chance, for golly’s sake!). If you think that’s dramatic, I’d like to offer forth evidence that the only time a pea has ever properly been a star of any mainstream storyline, it was as the problem-causing low-life antagonist in the Princess and the Pea. And it didn’t even get nominated for an Oscar.

Bottom line: Peas just don’t have the star appeal of say, chocolate cake (ok, fine, no one has the star appeal of chocolate cake — but you get the idea). And it’s a shame — because peas sort of rock.

In an effort to reduce meat intake overall, I stumbled across the fact that peas are an amazing source of protein. This is great for people who don’t want to eat a lot of meat, are vegan or have certain allergies (like eggs), in which you end up avoiding some regular sources of protein.

They are also (more obviously) a fantastic source of fiber and vitamin C.

In one cup, there’s nearly 8 grams of protein! 30% of your daily intake for dietary fiber & 97% of your vitamin C intake.

Now here’s the secret to not making disgusting peas: STOP OVERCOOKING THEM! I recommend either buying fresh, shelled peas in season that require just a quick boil (no more than 2-4 minutes to keep them from wrinkling & turning mushy) or buying frozen year round (they often retain even more nutrients because they are frozen at time of picking) and again, cooking very lightly according to package directions. Add a little olive oil or butter, salt and pepper or — if you’re feeling frisky — a bit of chopped mint, parsley or cilantro.

Assuming you have a pea-resistant person in your house, here’s a few ideas how to incorporate more peas into your meals that aren’t just a pile of peas.

Or, you can make my amazing, amazing, amazing pea pesto for pasta, boiled potatoes, on top of grilled fish or as a dip for chicken strips. I hope I didn’t oversell it. But it’s really good. It’s especially good tossed with a good-quality pasta alongside grilled shrimp or chicken.

I’m not advocating you make pea guacamole (because guac is sacred in my world, that’s why), but I do think peas need some much-deserved respect. So…what’s your favorite way to use the pea?