With spring less than two weeks away, it’s time to bid adieu to winter’s harvest—and say hello to the new peak-season produce starting to flood our supermarkets. The fresh bounty includes one of the world’s most commonly used and oldest known vegetables: peas. Fresh English shelling peas, snow peas and sugar snap peas are available from early March through late May. They’re at their best in early spring, when the weather is still cool.
(See recipe below)
Throughout the year peas are commonly bought in frozen bags or cans, both of which contain enough preservatives to keep the contents shelf-worthy for a long period of time. It may surprise you to learn that, because of their natural sugar, peas begin converting to starch immediately after they are picked. To take advantage of peas at the height of their flavor, buy them fresh from the produce section—and prepare and eat them as soon as possible.
Not only are peas packed with sweet flavor, they are bustling with nutritional value. Eating them fresh means that you reap their highest levels of iron, vitamin B1, potassium, fiber and protein.
Peas, of course, can be used in countless recipes—including, one of my favorites, soup. Pea soup is a perfect bridge between the comfort foods of winter and the crispness of spring. The following recipe raises the flavor bar with mint leaves and bits of bacon.
Tip: When buying and using English peas as directed in the recipe below, shell them just before cooking to prevent the peas from drying out.
Pea Soup with Bacon and Mint
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound bacon, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 medium russet potato, peeled and chopped
8 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound fresh, shelled English peas (from about 3 pounds unshelled)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 sprigs fresh mint, plus more for garnish
1) Add olive oil to large saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and sauté. Once bacon is halfway cooked, about 4 minutes, add in onion, celery and potato. Sauté mixture until onions are translucent and bacon is fully cooked and crispy.
2) Add chicken stock and bring soup to a boil. Add peas, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes, continuing to stir every few minutes.
3) Transfer mixture into a food processor or blender and puree in batches. Return pureed soup to stove-top pot.
4) Mix heavy cream into the saucepan over low heat. Season with salt, pepper and mint springs. Allow soup to cook for 15 minutes more. Remove mint and discard.
5) Ladle soup into serving bowls and top with dollop of cream, bacon pieces, mint leaves and a sprinkle of pepper. Serve warm.
About Amanda Jane
Amanda Jane is the creator of the food blog Seasonally Jane, a creative space where she shares her love of seasonally inspired cooking through original recipes, photography and writing. Seasonally Jane celebrates the use of peak-season fruits and vegetables with an emphasis on organic whole foods and unique ingredients. Amanda launched her blog in September 2014 and is based in Lighthouse Point.