Like beans, peas belong to the legume family, being plants that bear fruit in the form of pods enclosing the fleshy seeds inside. Peas are divided into two categories—those with and those without edible pods. Shelling peas require only a little work to uncover the tender treasures within, and they are well worth the effort. Both snap and snow peas fall into the edible pod category—no shelling required!
The modern day garden pea is thought to have originated from the native field pea of Asia and Europe, and has been consumed by humans for thousands of years. In fact, peas are mentioned in the Bible and were highly prized by the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome. However, it was not until the 16th century, when cultivation techniques created more tender varieties that people began to consume peas in their fresh state as opposed to just eating dried peas. It is likely that the Chinese were the first to consume both the seeds and the pods as a vegetable.
Peas are bursting with nutrition. They are a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, dietary fiber, folate and thiamin. They are also a good source of vitamin A, phosphorus, vitamin B6, protein, niacin, magnesium, riboflavin, copper, iron, zinc and potassium. Pears are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
Eat your peas as soon as possible after picking—the fresher the pea the quicker it will cook, Some folks will steam them very briefly, for just a couple of minutes, and then submerge them in ice water before adding them to their recipes. This will set their absolutely gorgeous green color and stops the cooking process until you are ready to continue. All three types of peas are wonderful added to pasta dishes and sauces. They are also great raw as part of a crudité platter, added to all sorts of salads, and are a real treat for eating out of hand. Kids love them! Snow peas are ideal for stir-fries and go very nicely paired with tofu, ginger, garlic and hot chile peppers. Snap peas work very nicely with butter and salt, sweet peppers, chives and, of course, fresh mint. Easy, tasty and healthy, peas are the perfect casual summer dining food!