When the springtime rolls around in the Bay Area most folks can’t wait to sink their teeth into a juicy local strawberry. After eating California citrus for the past four months, we’re all ready for some delicate sweetness. Strawberries aren’t the only sweet produce treat that comes with the cool spring weather. This is time to give peas a chance!
Peas are the perfect crop to grow in the spring because they like the cool weather and farmers can get plant them in the late winter so they have a crop to harvest in the early spring. At Bi-Rite, we love to celebrate Sugar Snap Peas and English Peas throughout April and May when they are eating the best, because they go so well other spring crops like spring onions, green garlic, wild mushrooms, and baby lettuce.
Sugar Snap Peas are the most common peas and much easier to grow than English Peas. Farmers harvest Sugar Snaps when the peas are crunchy and sweet. Snap Peas are a great snack for kids since the entire peas and shell can be eaten raw. English Peas, on the other hand, are a little more challenging for the farmer to grow because no matter how big and beautiful the outer shell might be it all depends on the size and flavor of the peas inside. If a farmer harvests the English Peas too early the peas inside are too small and if they are harvest to late the peas lose their tenderness and become starchy. The outer shells of the English Peas are too fibrous to eat, but peas are also a great snack raw. The Produce buyers at Bi-Rite are always shopping around to find the best eating peas because the quality can change drastically from one farmer to another.
Sugar Snap and English Peas are very easy to prepare. They can both be blanched for 1 to 2 minutes to brighten the flavor and get rid of any starchiness that might be in the pea. It’s very important to rinse the peas you have blanched with ice water to prevent them from over cooking. English Peas can be tossed on top of a salad or risotto and make great puree. Sugar Snap Peas don’t puree well but chopped up can be used as substitute for English peas when needed. Sugar Snap Peas are great for stir fry and are a lot harder to overcook compared to gentle English Peas. The pea itself isn’t the only part of the pea plant that is a joy to eat – we also have pea shoots and tendrils, which offer the fresh, grassy flavor of green peas and are beautiful in salads, for sautéing, or adding to pastas and risottos.
The kitchen at Bi-Rite is also celebrating this delicious spring crop, with a brand new summer pea hummus in the pre-pack case! It’s delicious and perfect for park picnics. While you might find peas at grocery stores year round, spring is when they local peas are have the perfect texture and flavor – next time you’re in the Market ask the produce clerk for a tasty sample, and try our Eat Good Food English Pea and Green Garlic Dip recipe to savor the flavor of spring:
English Pea and Green Garlic Dip
Eat Good Food page 118
Serve with crostini or fresh spring veggies as a dip, or spread it on sandwiches.
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
1 cup chopped green garlic (2 stalks)
3/4 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 1/2 cups English Peas
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
6 large mint leaves, coarsley chopped
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, a pinch of salt, and a grind or two of black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the green garlic and thyme and cook until the garlic is wilted and fragrant, another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Bring a small pan of well-salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
Put the peas in the bowl of a food processor along with the onion mixture, pecorino, lemon juice, mint and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pulse a few times to blend, and with the motor running, pour in the remaining 1/3 cup oil, blending just until combined. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice as needed.