Preserving Peas

DSCN1102

Today it finally happened.  The peas are gone.  The bushes are now finishing their life cycle as compost.  I hate ripping things out of the garden, but after our 3rd day in a row of 90+ heat with a few more days left before it “cools off” into the 80’s, the plants were looking beat.  I picked the remaining peas as I pulled the plants out, and managed to get quite a few peas piled up, despite the dog stealing them from the bowl.  I’ve planted them for 3 years in a row now because Karl likes eating them so much.  They’re his favorite garden treat.  He’s very much a veggie lover.  Not a big fan of berries, which is good, because then there’s more for me!

This year, however, I grew them on my pole bean trellis.  Usually I just string up a short trellis on 3 foot stakes and let the bush peas crawl all over that.  I plant the same variety so I was very surprised that with the 6 foot trellis the plants grew about 5 feet tall!  There was a ton more peas, too!  Between Karl and I munching on them as I work in the garden, I’ve never before even harvested enough to do much beyond adding them to a stir-fry or two.  I quickly realized when I saw all the blossoms that I might have to find a way to preserve them this year.

DSCN1105

That’s where the FoodSaver comes in.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love this little machine?  Besides my pressure canner, it was the best food preserving investment I’ve made.   My first harvest of peas was about 4 pounds and I didn’t want them to sit overnight, so I only shelled half, and it still took me about 90 minutes to shell the other half.  Both batches were blanched in boiling water, rinsed in cold water before freezing them.  Unfortunately, the unshelled peas were too wet to get the bags to seal (kept sucking up water that was trapped in the shells) so I just rolled as much of the air out as I could and tucked the FoodSaver bag into a plastic zipper lock bag.  The shelled peas were much easier after the marathon shelling part.  They were blanched using my chinois (the only thing I could find with a small enough mesh the peas wouldn’t float out of), rinsed with cold water and left to dry for a few minutes.

DSCN1128

They shriveled a little after their hot bath, but who doesn’t?  I split them up into meal-for-two sized portions (it’ll actually be just me eating them-my husband informed me that after gorging on them as a kid and getting sick that he was done with peas) and vacuum sealed them.  Into freezer they went.  I’ve done that process three times total in the past two weeks, getting fewer peas each time, but I have 6 little bags of blanched, shelled peas and 3 bags of blanched, unshelled peas.

DSCN1130

Fresh peas are so much sweeter than store-bought frozen ones (don’t even bother with canned peas, they’re just nasty).  I usually add peas to soup, casseroles, or in a pilaf, but always with something else as they’re not that flavorful on their own, but fresh peas are special and are best when eaten on their own so their flavor shines.  I boil them in some salted water (just long enough to heat them and make them slightly tender-nobody wants mushy peas), drain them, and melt a pat of unsalted butter with them so they get a glossy sheen and eat them as a side.  Cold peas are a great addition to a green or pasta salad.

They’re the first crop I directly sow outdoors every spring and they give me hope in the wet spring to see them thriving and growing when I’m anxious to plant but the weather doesn’t cooperate yet.  I’m sad to see them go, but this year I’m bringing them back for their fall encore appearance.  Now my pole beans can finally take over the trellis and I hope to be up to my eyeballs in green beans!