Short thoughts on shell peas

Shell peas had been given nearly-mythic status in my mind thanks to the ravings of my BIL, who swears that freshly shelled peas from my sister’s garden is one of his favorite summer foods. So, it was with great joy that I saw the CSA box would have shell peas (aka “English peas”) this past week. I was never much of a pea person until dh and I started dating and he would get me into canned peas as a decent side dish at dinnertime. After we had kids, we more firmly transitioned to frozen peas – typically, the 2lb bag with the grocery store brand label.

And then there’s shell peas. They’re going to be fantastic. Mythic. EPIC.

My verdict: They’re yummy, but they’re more trouble than they need to be worth. That’s not to say that I didn’t like them. I did – really, I did! But they didn’t blow me away enough to make me think that this is THE PEA FOR ME FOR NOW AND FOREVER.

First off, there’s some effort required in taking them from in-the-pod to not-in-the-pod. For the bag of approximately 2lbs of shell peas, I spent a little more than a half-hour to shell the lot of them, and I yielded just about 13oz of peas. Half of them were prepared last night, and the other half went back into the fridge to be prepared later in the week. Everything I’ve read about shell peas said that you should eat them pretty soon after they’re picked, so we’re trying to be good about getting through them.

Once you get past the shelling process, the cooking process is super-easy. For about 6-7oz peas, just boil some water in a saucepan, add the peas and cook them for about 1-2 minutes, until they’re a pretty green. Turn off the heat, strain them to get rid of the water, and then stir in about 1/2Tb butter or margarine. Some people put salt in the water or salt the peas after. Some bypass all that and just eat them raw. Peas are, as always, a “whatever works for you” kind of vegetable.

Everybody liked the peas, but it was clear that the reception was only somewhat better than what we get for the frozen ones heated up in the microwave. For the price difference and the work required, that relegates shell peas firmly to weekend-duty, on an irregular basis. Shell peas may be a treat, but I think I’ve seen now that the myth was more in my head than in the pod.

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