For home gardeners, green peas are a dream crop. They can handle heat and freezing, which means you can plant them early and, with succession planting, keep them going into the summer. And fresh off the vine, they taste sweeter than candy. Alas, in most parts of North America, pea season is coming to its natural end. Whether you've got peas coming out your ears or haven't shelled one in your life, now's the moment to eat as many as possible before they're gone for the summer.
This recipe is adapted from Top Chef: New York, where Carla Hall wowed the judges with her simple, herb-infused dish that lets the pea's natural deliciousness shine through. I made it recently and was equally wowed.
- 1 pound English peas, shelled
- 1 teaspoon tarragon, chopped
- 4 tablespoons cold butter
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest (or a dash of lemon juice)
- a pinch of chopped thyme
- kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Blanch the peas until they are bright green and tender, but do not overcook!
Toss them with the other ingredients and serve immediately.
This recipe will only be delicious if the peas are perfect. If you're harvesting pea pods off the vine, pick them before the peas get too fat. They should be round and plump, but not squeezed against each other in the pod. As peas grow, they convert their sugars to starch -- meaning that big peas are bitter and dry.
Buying your peas at the farmers market? Same goes: Look for smaller pods and round peas. Ask the farmer when the peas were picked. As soon as they leave the vine, the flavor begins to change; you want to eat them within hours of picking, a day at most. That means you shouldn't buy peas until just before you're ready to eat them. As if you could resist anyway.
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