Peas – side vegetables with main role potential. Whether as a side dish with melted butter or as a hearty stew – peas cut a fine figure in many dishes. No wonder, because the small, round legumes not only have a pleasantly sweet taste but also have nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and valuable vegetable protein.
What are peas?
Peas are not actually a vegetable but a small, edible legume and as such, they belong to the same family as lentils, chickpeas, beans, and peanuts. Peas grow in pods on a vine and once the pod is plump, they are ripe for picking.
Peas are super versatile, but they go particularly well with herbs and spices such as mint, olive oil, thyme, rosemary, dill, curry, and black pepper. This makes them perfect in hearty curry dishes as well as light summer salads, great for the coming warmer months
What are the 5 top health benefits of peas?
1. Good source of plant-based protein
Being rich in fibre and one of the best plant-based proteins makes peas a satisfying component of a meal. They are also a useful vegan source of iron, which is needed for making red blood cells and transporting oxygen around the body.
2. May improve blood sugar management
With a low glycaemic index (GI) and a high fibre content, peas are a useful inclusion if you need to monitor your blood sugar levels. Peas contain starch in the form of amylose, which slows our digestion and as a result, studies support that they may help improve our blood sugar balance. Peas also contain nutrients like magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin C, all of which help support blood sugar management.
3. May support digestive health
Peas are rich in fibre which both supports digestive health and fuels the beneficial gut microbes, which play a pivotal role in our health. Much of the fibre content is soluble, which may alleviate constipation. Eating more fibre is associated with a reduced risk of a number of conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
4. May support heart health
Peas contain heart-friendly minerals including magnesium, potassium and calcium and are also rich in antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, as well as phytonutrients including carotenoids and flavonols which are heart-protective and support cardiovascular function. The soluble fibre peas contain helps us manage cholesterol levels, especially LDL cholesterol.
5. May be cancer-protective
Regularly including legumes, like peas, in your diet may reduce the risk of cancer due to their high antioxidant levels. Peas also contain natural compounds called saponins, these compounds have been shown to help protect against some forms of cancer.
Would you have thought that there are a total of 80 types of peas? But only a few of them make it to our plate. The most common are sugar peas, marrow peas, and split peas. You can get them fresh in many European countries from the beginning of June to the end of September. By the way, although you might suspect it, chickpeas are not closely related to peas.
Boil peas – that’s how it works
Even out of season you don’t have to do without delicious pea dishes, because dried and frozen peas are available all year round. The cooking time differs depending on the variant:
Boil fresh peas
If you have decided on fresh peas, you first have to pay attention to the variety when processing. While you can cook and eat sugar peas with their pods, you have to peel marrow peas and peas or peas before processing. After 10-15 minutes of cooking in salted water, your fresh peas are ready.
Boil frozen peas
You don’t have to peel frozen peas. They also only need a little cooking water and are cooked in about 8-10 minutes.
Boil the peas from the jar
Peas in a jar or a can are completely prepared and pre-cooked. So you don’t have to peel them and only heat them for a few minutes with a little butter in the saucepan without adding water.
Boil dried peas
Dried peas must be soaked in cold water for 12 hours before preparation. Then you put them in boiling and salted water. If your dried peas have already been peeled, they will cook for around 45 minutes. Unpeeled peas are ready to eat after 60 to 90 minutes.
KITCHEN TRICK: HOW PEAS GET THE GREEN COLOR
To keep peas bright green when cooked, simply add a little sugar or baking soda to the cooking water. After cooking, the peas should be quenched.
Peas – freshness tips and storage instructions
To get really fresh peas, you should take a close look at the pods before buying. They should be crisp green. If you have pith or pea peas on your shopping list, remember that the pod also weighs something. For example, if the recipe says 300 g of peas, you should buy around 1 kg.
You can store your fresh peas in the refrigerator for one to two days without any problems. It is best to wrap them in a damp cloth or put them in a plastic bag. However, you should only peel them shortly before processing. If you’ve bought too many peas once, you can freeze them: briefly blanch the peas, cool them down, and put them in the freezer compartment, well wrapped. So they can be kept for several months.
More than pea soup – diverse recipe ideas
Peas are often ready for use in the kitchen. Real classics are the pea soup in many variations. You can also add green splashes of color to pasta salads and oven dishes.
Peas don’t just look good in hearty soups. The green legumes cannot be missing in Spanish paellas either. Peas add nice splashes of color in Asian curries or salads. Pureed they are also a great alternative to mashed potatoes or a valuable addition to green smoothies. Try it out!