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Vegetable of the Month: Peas

Peas have been used in the dry form since ancient times, and archaeologists found them in Egyptian tombs. It was not until the sixteenth century that more tender varieties were developed and eaten fresh. Today only about 5% of all peas grown are sold fresh. More than half of all peas sold are canned and most of the rest are frozen.

Peas
Serving size 1/2 cup (frozen cooked)
Calories 63
Calories from Fat < 1g
Amounts Per Serving % Daily Value
Total Fat 0.2g 0%
  Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0g 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
  Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Protein 4g
Vitamin A 10%
Vitamin C 13%
Calcium 2%
Iron 14%
Thiamin 16%
Folate 12%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Green peas are actually a member of the legume family. This family includes plants that bear pods enclosing fleshy seeds. Green peas do not require the long cooking times that are required by dried legumes such as split peas and pinto beans. Peas are a good low calorie source of protein. A 100-calorie serving of peas (about 3/4 cup) contains more protein than a whole egg or a tablespoon of peanut butter and has less than one gram of fat and no cholesterol.

Choosing the Best Peas

Fresh green peas should be refrigerated. Half of their sugar content will turn to starch within six hours if they are kept at room temperature. Low temperatures also preserve their texture and nutrient content. Look for pods that are firm, have glossy pods with a slightly velvety feel, filled to appear almost bursting, and peas should not rattle loosely in the pod. Pods should not be dull, yellowed, or heavily speckled.

Snow peas should be shiny and flat, with very small peas that are barely visible through the pod. Smaller pods are the sweetest and the most tender. Sugar snap peas should be bright green, plump, and firm.

Storing Peas for Freshness

It is best to serve all types of fresh peas the day they are purchased. If they must be stored, place them in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Do not wash them before they are stored. Shell green peas right before you cook them.

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Preparing Peas to Eat

Rinse peas before shelling them. To shell peas, pinch the stem off with your fingernails and pull the string down the length of the pod. The pod will pop open and the peas can be pushed out of the pod with your thumb. When finished, wash all peas.

Rinse snow peas and sugar snap peas before use. To trim snow peas, cut the tips from both ends of the pod. This can be done with kitchen shears. Sugar snap peas need to have the strings removed before eaten cooked or raw. The string runs around both sides of the sugar snap pod. It is easiest to start from the bottom tip and pull the string up the front, and then snap the stem off and pull the string down the back of the pod.

Varieties of Peas

Green peas are nestled within large, bulging, grass green pods that are typically round and sweet. The green pea pods are tough, do not have good flavor, and therefore, are not eaten. Snow peas (Chinese pea pods) and sugar snap peas are more often found fresh, but many companies are now selling them frozen. These peas are eaten raw or cooked with the pod intact.

Snow peas supply less protein and are lower in B vitamins than green shelled peas because they are eaten when their seeds are still immature. However, snow peas provide almost twice the calcium, 100% of the RDA for vitamin C, and slightly more iron than green peas. Tips to Make Peas a Part of Your Day

  • Season cooked peas with fresh or dried mint, chopped fresh parsley, curry powder, or with lemon.
  • Add shelled green peas, snow peas, or sugar snap peas to tossed green or pasta salads or to stir-fried dishes.
  • Snow and sugar snap peas can be eaten raw as a snack or with your favorite low-fat dip.

Recipes

Oriental Snow Peas

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 lb fresh snow pea pods, trimmed

1/2 cup diagonally sliced carrot

1/4 cup sliced water chestnuts

1/2 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth

1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce

1 tsp cornstarch

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Add oil to a nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add snow peas and carrots. Sauté 2 minutes. Add water chestnuts and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Combine soy sauce and cornstarch, stir until cornstarch dissolves. Add to vegetable mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. Serve immediately.

Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 50, Fat 1.5g, Saturated Fat 0.3g, Cholesterol 0mg, Carbohydrates 8.5g, Dietary Fiber 2.5g, Sodium 66mg, Protein 2g.

Stir-Fried Rice

Makes 6 side-dish servings

Ingredients

1 cup rice (white or brown)

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup egg substitute

1/2 tsp mustard powder

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp shredded fresh ginger

1/2 cup carrot chopped into small pieces

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 8-oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained

2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce

Cook rice as directed but substitute 1 cup chicken broth for 1 cup water. Let rice cool to room temperature or cover and refrigerate until ready to use. In a small bowl mix together egg substitute, and dry mustard until blended. Lightly coat a large skillet or wok with nonstick vegetable spray. Heat skillet over medium heat and add egg mixture. Cook the egg mixture without stirring until they begin to set; stir and cook until the egg bits are small and crumbly. Remove and set aside.

Slightly heat the skillet, then spray it with nonstick spray. Add garlic and ginger. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the carrots and peas. Cook and stir for about 3 minutes until vegetables are tender. Stir in cooked rice, scrambled eggs bits, and water chestnuts. Cook and stir until heated through, about 3 minutes. Add soy sauce to rice mixture. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 97, Fat 1.2g, Saturated Fat 0.2g, Carbohydrates 16g, Cholesterol 0.2mg, Sodium 391g Dietary Fiber 3g, Protein 6g.

Eggplant Curry

Makes 6 servings.

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Ingredients

2 Tbsp peanut oil

1 Tbsp mustard seeds

2 Tbsp sesame seeds

2 tsp ground cumin

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (can add more if you like hot foods)

2 medium eggplants (7-8 inches long, and 4 inches in diameter) cut into 1 inch cubes

Water as needed

2 cups frozen or fresh green peas

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, minced, optional

Rice, cooked

Heat oil over medium heat in a very large and deep skillet or Dutch oven. Add mustard and sesame seeds, and cumin. Sauté 5 minutes. Add onion, salt, turmeric, and cayenne. Cook stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add eggplant. Cook covered stirring regularly, bringing bottom layer of eggplant to the top. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until eggplant is soft. You may have to add a little water if mixture gets too dry. Steam peas until they are just tender and bright green. Serve the curry mixture over rice, topped with peas and fresh minced cilantro.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 292, Fat 7g, Saturated Fat 1g, Carbohydrates 50g, Cholesterol 0mg, Dietary Fiber 11g, Sodium 58mg, Protein 9g.

Vegetarian Paella

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 tsp paprika

1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice

3 3/4 cups stock or vegetable broth

3/4 cups dry white wine

14 oz can tomatoes, chopped with juice

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1/2 tsp tarragon

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp oregano

1 red pepper, roughly chopped

1 green pepper, roughly chopped

3 stalks celery, finely chopped

3 cups mushrooms, washed and sliced

1/2 cup snow pea pods

2/3 cup frozen peas, trimmed

1/3 cup cashew nut pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil; sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add paprika and rice and continue to cook for 4-5 minutes or until rice is transparent. Stir occasionally. Add stock, wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, and herbs and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add peppers, celery, mushrooms, and pea pods and continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until rice is cooked. Add peas, cashews, salt and pepper to taste. Heat through and place on a large heated serving dish.

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Nutrition information per serving: Calories 454, Fat, 12g, Saturated Fat 2g, Carbohydrates 71g, Cholesterol 0mg, Dietary Fiber 10g, Sodium 295mg, Protein 12g.

Penne Pasta with Chicken & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 cup boiling water

6 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup dry white wine or low-fat chicken broth

1 Tbsp Italian seasoning

3 Tbsp chopped shallot (1 large shallot) or green onion

1 1/4 cups chopped fresh mushrooms

1/2 cup fresh peas or frozen peas, thawed

8 oz penne pasta

Vegetable oil cooking spray

5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

12 oz evaporated skim milk

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350°. Place sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl, add boiling water, and set aside. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. While waiting for water boil, combine chicken and wine in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning on top of chicken. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the center of the meat is no longer pink. Remove chicken from dish, shred the meat, and reserve the cooking juices.

Drain the sun-dried tomatoes and slice them thinly. Pour the reserved cooking juices from chicken into a sauté pan. Add shallots, mushrooms, peas, and sun-dried tomatoes. Sauté over low heat for a few minutes, until liquid has been absorbed and the vegetables are wilted. Remove the pan from heat and cover it to keep the vegetables warm.

Add penne to the water in the large pot, which should be at a full boil. Cook over high heat about 8-12 minutes or until desired doneness. While pasta is cooking prepare sauce.

Preheat a small, heavy saucepan for about 1 minute over medium heat, then spray it twice with vegetable spray. Toss in the garlic and flour, then using a whisk, blend in the evaporated milk. Add nutmeg and red pepper flakes. Whisking constantly, bring mixture to a boil. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Reduce heat and stir in basil. Drain pasta and transfer to a warm serving dish. Add the chicken, vegetables, and sauce.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 267, Fat 2.5g, Saturated Fat 0.7g, Carbohydrates 33g, Dietary Fiber 2g, Protein 25g.

WebMD Public Information from the CDC Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on May 27, 2005

Sources

SOURCE: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services: "Vegetable of the Month: Peas!" www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/5aday/month/peas.htm

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