October 19, 2018
Green pea

Fresh Peas: Delicate and Nutritious

by Berkeley Wellness

Peas are legumes: plants that bear pods enclosing seeds. The legume family (called Fabaceae or Leguminosae) has the third-largest number of species of all land plants. Most legumes are sold as dried beans or peas. Only a handful—in particular green peas, snow peas, sugar snaps, and green beans—are sold fresh. Fresh peas are all cultivars of the species Pisum sativum.

Although dried peas have been used as a food since antiquity, it was not until the 1500s that varieties were developed that were tender enough to be eaten fresh. In the 1600s, Louis XIV and his courtiers discovered the delights of eating young fresh peas. And Gregor Mendel, an Austrian botanist, used peas as the basis for his famous plant breeding experiments in the latter half of the 1800s. His work with pea plants is considered the foundation of modern genetics.

Types of Fresh Peas

Discover top varieties of nutritious fresh shelling peas, as well as edible-pod peas such as snow peas and sugar snaps.

Fresh peas: nutrition

Like most legumes, peas are a low-fat, high-fiber food and a good source of plant protein, though the protein is incomplete because peas lack certain essential amino acids.

Green peas, compared with snow peas, provide more riboflavin, niacin, and zinc. Snow peas, on the other hand, provide more than three times the amount of vitamin C as green peas, and also supply a good amount of vitamin E, folate, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Note: Canned peas are lower in nutrients and usually higher in sodium than either fresh or frozen peas.

For a full listing of nutrients, see Green Peas in the National Nutrient Database.

How to Choose the Best Fresh Peas

For the best fresh green peas, look for firm, glossy pods with a slightly velvety feel that are filled almost to bursting.

When you get home

Don’t shell green peas until just before you plan to cook or eat them, and don’t wash them before storing. Garden peas in the shell should be kept refrigerated. If not, half their sugar content will turn to starch within six hours. Low temperatures also help to preserve their texture and nutrient content.

8 Ways to Serve Fresh Peas

Fresh peas add delicate flavor to many dishes. Try these recipe ideas and tips to prepare fresh peas.

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