The pleasure of peas

peas

The weather this year has been a bit odd. It seems with some unknown regularity, nature throws us a seemingly warm early spring followed by a cool and damp summer studded with days of high heat and humidity. This weather I like to call pea weather.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 11.31.37 AMYes, this season when the corn, cucumbers and tomatoes have a hard time convincing us they will ever produce is perfect for the undervalued sweet green pea.

I was raised in the Midwest at a time when canned vegetables were being forced down the throat of every child in my neighborhood. Canned asparagus, spinach and peas were among the worst.

As a vegetable “tortured” child, options were limited. But creativity, large pockets or a hungry four-footed friend under the table were the only ways out, barring arguments, threats and/or an extremely long dinner time.

The coming of frozen vegetables was a great help, but I will never forget the day I tasted real peas fresh from the garden.

The sweetness, texture and flavor had me in disbelief after swearing off the horrible canned version.

Incredibly balanced in nutrition, this legume contains valuable omega fatty acids, phytonutrients, antioxidants and a wide variety of vitamins. They are also a great source of fiber.

While many of us want nothing to do with shelling out those sweet little spheres, nature has happily provided us with options: snow peas, the flat version used in Asian cooking — great in salads or snacking — or the edible pod version called sugar peas. These are a great substitute in any dish you would normally use peas in.

Because of their versatility, you will find peas in many preparations.

Their flavor is complimented by butter and mint, olive oil and Prosciutto, lemon and black pepper, potatoes, basil, rosemary, mushrooms, bacon and seafood.

The list goes on and on.

You will find them in salads with ham or shrimp and cheese, roasted and seasoned for a snack, boiled and pureed with herbs and oil for a spread, in addition to simply sautéed or steamed.

I dare say the possibilities are only limited by our imagination.

— Chef Merlyn, Merlyn’s Catering

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