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Cooking Garden Peas

Peas cooking1

Peas cooking

How do you cook peas? Peas are cooked in the least possible amount of water and in just the time for them to become just tender.

The French cook peas in the water it takes to moisten lettuce leaves. Line a saucepan with damp greens and a few pea pods, pour in the shelled peas and cover them with moist lettuce. Steam the peas over a high heat for about 3 minutes or until they are al denté, just tender.

Be careful not to overcook peas. Boiling or long steaming will increase water absorption and cause the peas to become soggy and mushy. Both flavor and nutrients are sacrificed when peas are overcooked.

When the peas are ready, the simplest way to enjoy them is with butter, salt, and pepper.

Pea, garden pea, English pea are all the same. The pea is traditionally the first kitchen garden crop planted each year. It goes in the ground as soon as the soil can be worked.

When peas come to harvest, follow this advice: pick peas the instant that they are bright green and the pods begin to bulge. Split the pod open with your thumb and roll the small sweet peas into your mouth or into the bowl and immediately prepare and enjoy. Young, small, tender peas are the sweetest eating.

Peas are much like corn as soon as they mature a chemical reaction occurs that causes the peas’ sugar content to decrease rapidly. A fresh, sweet, juicy pea can rapidly become starchy and hard. The same is true if the pea is shelled and then left on the kitchen counter or in a warm place for more than a few hours.

Peas that you are going to hold onto before eating should not be shelled. Set them uncovered in the coldest part of the refrigerator until you are ready to shell them. Rinse peas before you shell them not after.

If you are leaving peas in the refrigerator overnight or a day or two, they will still be tasty, but not as sweet as if you used them within two hours of harvest. If you get peas at the market, check to see when they are harvested. Farm market peas are usually sold the day after harvest.

Two pounds of peas in the shell will give you about two cups of shelled peas. That is enough to serve three or four people.

Early peas are harvested from late spring to early summer and the main crop from midsummer to early fall. Peas require 55 to 70 days from sowing to harvesting and they won’t thrive if the soil temperature climbs much above 75°F (24°C). So if your growing season is long enough and the weather doesn’t grow too hot, you might get a mid-season pea crop as well.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.


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