Ingredient SpotLight

Peas are a sweet sign of the summer gardening season. Early in June, fresh peas start finding their way to my table and my family enjoys them in everything from casseroles to salads. One of the oldest crops, peas have been gathered in the wild for centuries before they became the domesticated gems we enjoy today. However, during the Roman Empire, they were considered poisonous unless they were dried. The regained popularity in the 1600s when the French cultivated the popular petits pois variety.

Peas are fairly easy to grow, provided you give them ample vine support and reasonably good soil. They tend to crawl a bit, so they make excellent trellis plants as well. Fresh peas are crunchy and sweet out of the pod, but most recipes favor a quick boil to soften them slightly.

Here are a few of my favorite pea recipes for you to try. I'm including a mix that includes fresh peas, frozen peas and canned peas. You can opt to interchange the types, but it's good to know you have options. Enjoy!

Fresh Green Pea Salad

  • 3 cups fresh green peas or 2 (10 oz.) pkgs. frozen, thawed
  • 4 to 5 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions or chives
  • Salt and pepper. to taste
  • Mint or fresh dill, as desired

Cook peas until barely tender; drain well and chill. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve on lettuce.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes, plus chilling time

Easy Creamed Peas

  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced onion rings
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • dash salt
  • dash pepper
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon diced pimiento
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Combine onion rings, water, and 1 teaspoon salt in saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 7 minutes. Add peas and cook for 5 minutes longer, or until peas are just tender. Drain and reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and seasonings, stirring until smooth and bubbly. Add the pimiento, cream and reserved liquid from vegetables. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add the vegetables and heat through.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

English Pea Casserole

  • 1 can (approx. 15 ounces) petite peas, drained
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 small jar pimiento, chopped, (2 ounce)
  • 8 ounces shredded American cheese
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup cornbread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

Combine cream of mushroom soup with milk. In a 2-quart casserole dish, layer peas, boiled eggs, grated cheese, and soup mixture. Combine cornbread crumbs with melted butter; sprinkle over top of casserole. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes