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All the world is nuts about

    What's in The Nut Gourmet

The Nutty Gourmet

Vegetarians in Paradise

On the Highest Perch

Pease Porridge Hot, Pease Porridge Cold

Peas at a Glance
History Uses Folklore/Oddities Growing
Nutrition Purchasing Preparation Recipe

If you grew up enjoying nursery rhymes read by parents or grandparents, you may find this Old English rhyme familiar:

Pease porridge hot,
Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old.

For many, the rhyme didn't have a clear meaning--it simply sounded good and was easy to recite with its singsong rhythm. However, if you were a young peasant child growing up in sixteenth century England, your frequent meals of pease porridge served hot, cold, and in-between may have prompted you to express your lack of enthusiasm in just such a verse.

A large kettle containing a thick porridge made of peas hung over the fire in many English and Scottish homes during the Middle Ages and was customary even in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Because few of the peasants could afford meat, they based their meals on pease porridge with an abundance of whatever vegetables were on hand. When the fire died down at night, the morning porridge was quite cold. Each day the fire was relit, and more peas and vegetables were added to the kettle. Indeed, the original ingredients in the kettle could have been nine days old.

Pease porridge actually evolved from Pease Pottage, a very thick porridge made of dried peas that was served with highly salted bacon. The pease porridge, cooked without salt, relied on the bacon for flavor.

Food historians express differing opinions on the exact homeland of peas that are part of the legume family. The general consensus is that peas could have originated in the region that spans from the Near or Middle East across to Central Asia. Considering that most peas are a cool-weather crop, some historians believe their country of origin may have been northern India, Burma, or Northern Thailand.

Some say the word pea possibly came from the Sanskrit, while others determined that the Latin Pisum was the true origin of the word. The Old English word pise eventually evolved into pease, as in Pease porridge hot . . .

Archeologists exploring the "Spirit Cave," located on the border between Burma and Thailand, found peas that were carbon dated at 9750 BCE. No doubt these were a variety of wild peas that were gathered rather than cultivated. Another archeological dig at Jarmo in northwestern Iraq uncovered peas that were dated between 7,000 and 6,000 BCE. The Jarmo find is confusing to historians because there was no account of peas growing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Peas The archeological remains of Bronze Age villages in Switzerland contain early traces of peas dating back to 3,000 BCE.

Another confusing issue among archeologists is the discovery in ancient Egyptian tombs of something that resembled peas. Some scholars determined that it was not the familiar variety of peas we enjoy at our dinner tables, but a smaller variety unfamiliar to western botanists. Called the oasis pea, Pisum elatius, this legume grows in the Sahara Desert, is presently cultivated in Algeria, and is thought to be native to Egypt.

Peas were one of the earliest cultivated food crops. Cultivation brought stability to once nomadic tribes, a factor that made it possible for peas to be brought by travelers and explorers into the countries of the Mediterranean as well as to the Far East.

The Greeks and Romans were cultivating this legume about 500 to 400 BCE. During that era, vendors in the streets of Athens were selling hot pea soup. Apparently take-out foods are not a modern-day innovation after all. The question remains of how peas arrived in Greece. Scholars ponder whether they traveled from the area around Switzerland southward into Greece, or whether they arrived via an eastward route from India.

Apicius, Rome's first cookbook author of the ancient world, has nine recipes for cooking peas, each involving extensive preparation. Some are cooked with a number of vegetables and herbs, while others combine peas with meats and poultry and numerous seasonings. The mere fact that he offers nine unique preparations for peas exhibits the extent of their importance during that period.

Though botanical historians are unsure when peas arrived in China, evidence shows that by the 7th century peas were being cultivated by the Chinese and were called hu tou, meaning foreign legume. Some historians believe the Chinese were the first to consider peas a vegetable and consume the entire pea pod and its seeds, referring to the snow pea that was developed in China.

During the Middle Ages, dried peas became a staple food of the European peasants. In their dried form peas had the capability of long storage throughout the winter months. They were inexpensive and plentiful and made a filling wholesome meal the poor could afford.

Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great and Emperor of France, was fond of finding new vegetables and fruits from other lands and cultivating them in his gardens. When peas reached France about 800, he had them planted in his domains.

By the 13th century peas were a common food in France. Street vendors in Paris would cry out, "I have fresh peas in the pod." At the end of the 14th century, the Italians had cultivated tiny peas they named piselli novelli which were eaten fresh rather than dried.

When Catherine de Medici married Henry II of France in 1533, she brought many of her favorite foods with her from her Italian homeland. Naturally, piselli novelli were included among her many favorites. The new little peas were such a novel change from the dried peas that had become peasant fare that they created a new vogue in French cuisine. The French became known for their exceptional tiny peas called petit pois, a name that has remained since the 1500s.

The familiar garden pea was readily accepted and quickly became popular in Europe during the 16th century. Some areas of France became so well known for their extraordinary little peas that the names of the towns of Saint-Germain and Clamart were attached to the names of recipes that incorporated the little peas.

Peas became a familiar Lenten dish not only in France, but in England, too. Lent was not the only time that peas were a staple on the English menu. During the mid-1700's, major changes occurred in England's agricultural laws, designating large plots of farmland to private farming estates. King George III's Enclosures Act denied access to the poor, who relied on small pieces of land to grow enough to feed their families. Unable to grow their own vegetables, they turned to simple foods like dried peas that could be purchased cheaply.

During the reign of English King James I, 1566 to 1625, a shopkeeper could be heard touting his wares in the streets of London, "Hot Grey Peas and a suck of bacon."

Thomas Jefferson, elected third president of the United States in 1800, was an avid gardener. He thought so highly of peas that he and James Hemings, his slave-chef who was trained in Paris, planted 30 varieties of them. Peas, apparently, were his favorite vegetable. During his presidency, he sent orders to his gardener to cultivate a particular plot and devote that area "to Ravenscroft peas, which you will find in a canister in my closet."

The Vegetable Garden, an encyclopedia of cultivated vegetable plants, published in France in the 1800's, devoted 50 pages to the varieties of cultivated peas. Some of those same varieties are still grown today, while many have been lost as well.

PeasDuring colonial times in Southern United States peas provided nutritious sustenance. In fact, peas took precedence over beans and appeared in dishes like Hoppin' John that was a favorite of both the poor and the rich. In an effort to tempt new colonists to settle in the South, one writer boasted the land was so fertile that peas grew ten inches in ten days.

Though most Europeans who settled North America during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were not accustomed to eating many vegetables, many of those who settled in the South found the land and climate conducive to growing a wide variety. The ability to produce vegetables in abundance brought a new enthusiasm. One housewife's gardening calendar of 1806 noted that peas were prominent among the many other vegetables she had included.

When canned vegetables came into vogue during the late 1800s, they were very affordable. Peas were probably among the first vegetables to be canned by a company that became a household name that remains familiar today. The Campbell Soup Company began canning peas in 1870. Though the heat of the canning process destroys the chlorophyll that gives peas their natural bright green color, the dull olive green color and distinct canned flavor did not discourage true pea aficionados. Canned peas turned up frequently as a familiar side dish on English as well as American dinner plates.

Frozen vegetables appearing in the 1920s and 1930s provided a distinct advantage for peas. They could be harvested and frozen almost immediately before their sugars turned to starch, a process that begins within hours of harvesting. People who did not grow their own peas or who lived a great distance from a farm could enjoy the fresh, sweet flavor of frozen peas.

More than 1,000 varieties of peas are in existence today, (some producing green peas, some yellow). Countries like France, China, Denmark, and Russia lead in the production of dried peas, with the U.S., England, Hungary, and India mainly producing fresh peas. China's fresh peas consist mostly of snow peas.

Folklore and Oddities
The French court became so enamored with green peas that in Paris in 1695 it was common practice for aristocratic women to make them a late evening snack between dinner and bedtime. From the court of French King Louis XIV, Madame de Maintenoy wrote to Cardinal de Noailles: ". . . There are some ladies who, having supped, and supped well, take peas at home before going to bed, at the risk of an attack of indigestion. It's a fashion, a craze!"

Even kings are not immune to overindulgence--some are even well known for their gourmandising. After overindulging in peas, Louis XIV summoned his doctor to offer him relief from indigestion.

Because peas can be challenging to keep on the fork, upscale restaurants rarely serve them in an effort to avoid unprecedented breaches of etiquette that may occur when diners attempt to chase peas around their plates or catch one that rolls off the fork and onto the table.

The pea became so ingrained into the everyday existence of so many cultures from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, Europe, and Asia that the name appeared as part of other legumes such as pigeon peas, cowpeas, black-eyed peas, chick-peas, capucin peas, and peanut.

William Wallace Irwin, who was once secretary of the United States Chamber of Commerce, expressed passionate concern for peas in the Garrulous Gourmet when he wrote, "There is nothing so innocent, so confiding in its expression, as the small green face of the freshly shelled spring pea. Asparagus is pushing and bossy, lettuce is loud and blowsy, radishes are gay and playful, but the little green pea is so helpless and friendly that it makes really sensitive stomachs suffer to see the way he is treated in the average home. Fling him into the water and let him boil--and that's that."

A single pea was the focus of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea," a cherished children's story he wrote in 1835. In his tale, a young prince wanted to marry and searched his land to find a "real" princess. He almost gave up when on a windy and rainy night a young woman, who said she was a princess, arrived at the castle door drenched and soaking wet. The queen put her through the test by putting a pea on a bed, then piling 20 mattresses plus 20 eider-down beds on top of the pea. The young woman was to sleep on this bed. In the morning the queen asked her if she had slept well. The young woman lamented that she hadn't slept a wink because she was lying on something so hard it made her black and blue all over. When the queen declared that no one but a real princess could be that sensitive, the prince knew he had at last found his real princess. And, they lived happily ever after.

For those who wonder whether peas or pea, is or are, singular or plural, perhaps the following will set the record straight. In the early Old English form, "pease" was the plural form. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, by 1600, the last two letters, "se," were dropped, forming the singular. Today, the traditional name Pease Porridge retains its original spelling. Peasemeal, a flour made of yellow field peas, also clings to its original spelling.

Mendelian Genetics
Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk, is credited for his scientific contribution to the basics of genetics by the studies he conducted on how pea plants reproduced. His education at the University of Vienna included courses in zoology, botany, chemistry, and physics. During his experiments in the monastery in the1860s, he developed two standard laws that became fundamental to genetic inheritance. Mendel also recognized that some of the pea plant's traits were dominant and some were recessive. Specifically, he charted that smooth peas were a dominant trait, while wrinkled peas were a recessive trait.

Though he charted his genetic pea experiments with precise detail in a thoroughly scientific manner, he was not recognized for his work during his lifetime. He died in 1884, his work having fallen into obscurity. Scientist Hugo de Vries, along with the scientific community, rediscovered Mendel's work in 1900 and publicly recognized his contribution to the study of genetics.

Pea Cuisine
During the early 1600's the pudding cloth, a closely woven cotton or linen cloth, became a vessel that afforded more creativity to English cooking. Dried peas were soaked before going into the pudding cloth along with sugar, pepper, and mint. The pudding cloth was then tied and boiled in water to produce a very thick, solid Pease Pudding. Eventually, puddings were lightened with the addition of breadcrumbs, eggs, and butter.

Peas still remain popular in English cookery today. A present day favorite, Green Pea Cakes are a savory dish made from cooked dried peas, butter, milk, eggs, flour, baking powder, lard, and salt and pepper.

Peas A sweet version of pease pudding is popular in China. Dried peas are cooked, pureed, combined with sugar and then fried. The mixture is served as a hot dessert.

A Maryland version of Pease Porridge began with a cooked pea mush that was put through a sieve, then seasoned with spices, pepper and butter. Other cooks combined different varieties of peas with butter, celery, and ginger.

One of U.S. President Andrew Jackson's favorite dishes was a Pease Pudding seasoned with onions, cloves, carrots, celery, butter, nutmeg, sour cream, salt, pepper, and sugar.

The Scots enjoy a simple dish called Brose made from Peasmeal, a roasted flour made from dried yellow peas. Their Oatmeal Brose is made with one handful of rolled oats per person plus a little salt. The two are mixed together, then boiling water is poured over them just enough for the oats to swell with moisture. The mixture is then served with cream.

When frozen vegetables gained popularity in the 1930's and 1940's, peas were included in vegetable mixtures called jardinieres and macedoines that appeared in frozen cases in the grocery stores. Jardiniere is French for garden style, while macedoine, also French, refers to a mixture of vegetables or fruits.

Avid vegetable gardeners know that peas are the time clock of the garden. They gauge the planting of their other vegetables by the date they plant peas. As soon as the ground can be worked, peas are the first vegetable to be planted, and the first to come up. Eastern gardeners will plant them six weeks before the frost-free date. Gardeners in Southwestern United States have more latitude because they experience frost infrequently. They can plant peas during the fall months through the spring. Peas thrive in cool weather when the ground is cool and moist.

When temperatures reach 80 F (26.7 C.), most peas are unable to produce pods, and the vines lose vigor. However, there are some summer varieties that are quite heat tolerant, though their flavor is not on a par with peas grown in the spring. For a winter crop, peas can be planted in late summer, poking them at least 2-inches (5 cm) into the ground to prevent them from drying out before germination.

Peas Vining peas need a sturdy trellis to support them during their growth. The bush varieties grow to a height of 1 to 5 feet (.3 to 1.5 meters) and can be planted close together in a clump to support each other. Mature pea pods measure from 1 3/4 to 6 inches (3.5 to 15 cm) in length and can contain between 2 and 10 seeds that vary in color from green to grayish green.

To harvest, begin checking garden or shelling pea plants carefully about three weeks after they start flowering. Learning to recognize a just-ripe pea pod is considered a gardener's art. Look for pods that are still plump and shiny. Those that have lost their sheen and look dull are overripe. Those peas will also have lost their sweetness because the sucrose begins turning to starch.

Another way to determine a ripe pea is to look at the seam on the sides of the pods. Ripe ones will have changed from convex to concave in shape.

Once you've determined which pods are ripe, take hold of the vine with one hand, and tug on the pod with the other. You'll notice that peas cling rather firmly to their vines.

Snap peas can be picked soon after they emerge from the flower stage. They should be harvested before they start filling out with plump peas. Overripe snap peas will have that same starchy quality as overripe shelling peas.

Snow peas can also be picked soon after the flower stage. Harvest them while the pods are still flat. If left on the vine too long, they will begin to turn yellow and become tough and stringy.

Wrinkled or smooth, those are the two classifications by which peas are judged in their dried form. The wrinkled peas are known to be sweeter, the smooth variety starchier.

Peas come to market either fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. Here are some of the more common varieties:

English Green or Garden Peas or Shelling Peas (Pisum sativum)
This variety is commonly grown in home gardens where they are picked fresh and eaten raw or cooked. When consumed soon after picking, they are very sweet. However, their sugar content turns to starch rather quickly and some sweetness is lost. Some varieties to consider are Multistar, Alderman, Lincoln, Green Arrow, and Maestro.

Petits Pois
Smaller than the English Green peas, this dwarf variety of tiny peas is usually grown commercially and becomes available in frozen or canned form. Petit Pois are available to the home gardener and are revered for their sweetness. Look for Petit Provencal or Precovil for spring planting, and Waverex for cool planting seasons.

Field Peas
At one time this variety was bestowed the scientific name S. arvense. Later it was decided the field pea was just another variety of the cultivated English pea that was left to revert back to its wild form. Its present scientific name is S. sativum var. arvense. While this variety is rarely available in the supermarket in its fresh form, it can be found in dried form sold either in packages or in bulk.

Snow Peas or Chinese Peas, (P. sativum macrocarpum)
Most of us are aware of the thin, almost flat pea pods that are a common ingredient in Chinese dishes, either very lightly cooked or eaten raw. Inside the flat pod are tiny flat peas. They are sweet, crisp, and bright green in color and have become so popular that most supermarkets will have them in their specialty produce sections.

Sugar Snap Peas
A cross between Snow Peas and English Green Peas, these crunchy, sweet, succulent pods are usually eaten raw in their entirety. The peas inside are fully developed, plump, round, and delicious. Look for the Dwarf Grey Sugar or Mammoth Melting Sugar varieties for exceptional results. The French called them mange-tout, translated as eat the whole thing.

Nutritional Benefits
Because peas are legumes, they offer many of the nutritional benefits typical of foods in the legume family, such as high protein, high fiber, and low fat. Following is a nutritional comparison of peas that are canned, fresh, and frozen using one-half cup as the common measure.

Canned Green Peas: Different brands of canned peas range in calories from 50 to 80 for a one-half cup measure. The protein range is from 3 to 5 grams, while the fiber spans from 10 to 15 grams. The carbohydrates fall into the 10 to 15-gram range as well.

The vitamin A count is 653 I.U. with a wide range of B vitamins including folic acid that measures 37.7 mcg. Calcium figures total 17 grams; both zinc and iron measure 0.8 mg; potassium provides 147 mg; and magnesium offers 14.4 mg.

Fresh: One-half cup of fresh peas contains 62 calories, 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of fiber. While canned peas list no fat content on the USDA Nutrient Database, fresh peas contain 0.2 grams of fat.

The vitamin A count is 534 I.U. with slightly higher figures of B vitamins than the canned peas. Folic acid measures 46.9 mcg; calcium offers 19.2 mg; iron content is 1.3 mg; zinc measures 0.8 mg; potassium content is 134 mg; and magnesium is 23.2 mg.

Frozen: Again, different brands yield different nutritional results. Calories range from 60 to 70; protein content is stable at 4 grams; carbohydrates vary between 10 and 11 grams; and fiber content differs between 2 and 4 grams. Only one brand contained 2 grams of fat, while the others rated 0.

The vitamin A count is 523 I.U., with a wide range of B vitamins. Folic acid content is 38.2 mcg; calcium offers 15.8 mg; iron contents are 1.1 mg; zinc is 0.6 mg; and potassium levels are up to 107 mg.

Snap Peas, frozen: Calorie count is stable at 30 for different brands, as is the protein value at 2 grams. Carbohydrates measure 8 grams, while fiber measures 2 grams.

No figures are shown for the vitamin and mineral contents of Snap Peas.

Snow Peas, fresh, raw whole: Calories measure 13, protein 1 gram. Carbohydrates provide 2.5 grams, while the fiber content is only 1 gram. The fat is only.5 grams.

The vitamin A content is 45.5 I.U., with a wide range of B vitamins. Folic acid count is 26.3 mcg, while calcium offers 27.1 mg. Iron content is 1.3 mg, zinc offers 0.2 mg, and potassium provides 156 mg.

Snow Peas, frozen, whole: The calories equal 30 grams, with 2 grams of protein. Carbohydrates contain 5 grams, with 2 grams of fiber.

The vitamin A content is 101 I.U. with a wide range of B vitamins. Folic acid provides 28.9 mcg; calcium levels are at 36 mg; iron offers 1.4 mg; zinc contents are 0.3 mg; and potassium provides 138 mg.

Green Split peas, boiled: Calorie count is 115; protein measures 8 grams; carbohydrate content is 20 grams; and the fiber count is 8 grams; and the fat content measures 0.4 grams.

The vitamin A content is 7 I.U. with a wide range of vitamin B especially niacin at .85 mg. Folic acid provides 63.5 mcg; calcium levels are 13.7 mg; iron stores are 1.25 mg; zinc is especially high at 1.0 mg; and potassium provides 355 mg.

No figures are given for whole dried peas; however, those figures are no doubt similar to cooked green split peas.

Purchasing and Storage
The freshest, sweetest peas are those picked right from the garden. For the many urbanites whose green thumb leans more toward making purchases of garden-fresh produce, the farmer's market is the best place to buy fresh peas in the spring and early summer.

When selecting fresh peas, look for pods that are bright green, shiny, plump, and moist. When the pods have a dull, lusterless look about them, they are old, have lost moisture, and have very likely lost their flavor as well as many of their nutrients. Purchase 3 pounds of shelling peas to make 4 servings as a side dish.

Use fresh peas as quickly as possible, either by cooking or eating raw. The sugar content of shelling peas begins to turn to starch within hours after harvesting. If stored for too many days, they lose their sweetness, leaving them with a bland, starchy flavor.

The supermarket may have shelling peas, or peas in the pod, in the spring, but by the time the peas reach the market they may be several days old and have lost a great deal of sweetness.

Sugar snap peas, on the other hand, cling to their sugar stores and almost always retain their exceptional sweetness unless they are old and dried up. Look for these in the spring at farmers' markets, farm stands, and even in the supermarkets.

Snow peas have become so popular they can be found year round in supermarket chains as well as Asian markets. Select those that are crisp and bright green. Avoid snow peas that are wilted, limp, shriveled, and yellowish in color. These are no longer fresh and will have lost their flavor and much of their nutritional value.

Frozen peas are closest to fresh peas in appearance, flavor, and nutrients. When grocery shopping, select the frozen vegetables last and put them into the home freezer as quickly as possible to avoid defrosting and re-freezing.

Store sugar peas and snow peas in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Most will keep up to one week, but are best when consumed within 3 days.

Fresh shelling peas, sugar snap peas, and snow peas can all be eaten raw. Shelling peas do not have edible pods, while sugar snaps and snow peas can be eaten pods and all.

Break open the pods of the shelling peas, also called peas in a pod, run the thumb along the edge where the peas are attached to the pod to loosen them, and collect the peas in a bowl or cooking pot.

Sugar snap peas and snow peas require trimming to eliminate the stringy edge that holds the two halves of the pod together. While cutting off the tips of the pods with a paring knife, pull along the length of the pod to remove the stringy portion, then discard.

Whole dried peas require soaking for several hours before cooking. Dried split green or yellow peas do not require soaking.

One bite into a crisp, fresh sugar snap pea or snow pea will reassure one that nature provides us well. The sweet, succulent flavor brings instant pleasure. The only preparation these peas require is washing. Both varieties are ideal in salads and raw soups.

For sugar snaps, use a paring knife to remove the strings that line the seam. Puree to create a delicious dip or filling to wrap in a lettuce leaf. Season the puree with a little cayenne and use the puree as a zesty topping.

Thin sugar snap puree with extra virgin olive oil, add a little lemon juice and seasonings to create a tasty salad dressing.

The pod of the snow pea makes an ideal appetizer with a filling of a chunky or pureed mixture of seasoned vegetables and sprouted grains.

Frozen peas, when defrosted but left raw, make a base for a delicious salad with sliced mushrooms, diced sweet or purple onion, and coarsely chopped tomatoes. Dress the salad with extra virgin oil, garlic, lemon juice, fresh chopped dill, and seasonings to taste.

Frozen, defrosted peas can be pureed in the food processor with your favorite seasonings to create a delicious dip or spread. A hint of spice with cayenne or fresh diced jalapeno adds a little zest to the dip.

Frozen defrosted peas provide an ideal base for raw soup.

Put fresh shelling peas, also called garden peas, into a saucepan with about one-half inch (1 cm) of water. Cover the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to low, and steam for about 3 or 4 minutes. Long cooking of fresh peas will destroy nutrients and flavor and turn the peas a dull olive green color.

Frozen peas are cooked the same as shelling peas.

For a dramatic color accent, snap peas and snow peas may be added the last minute or two of cooking a stir-fry. Overcooking destroys their crispness as well as color and flavor, so keep the cooking brief.

Before cooking whole dried peas, first examine the peas for any that are spoiled or do not look wholesome. Discard any debris in the package such as twigs or tiny pieces of gravel. Soak dried peas in water to cover by 3 inches (7.5 cm) overnight for cooking in the morning or soak all day to cook them for dinner. Discard the soak water.

To cook 1 cup (240 ml) of dried whole peas, cover with 6 cups (1.5 liters) of fresh water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn heat down to gently simmer for 1 to 2 hours or until peas are soft. For added flavor, include a coarsely chopped clove of garlic and a coarsely chopped onion. Season with salt about the last 10 minutes of the cooking. Serves 4.

To cook dried split peas, no soaking is needed. Simply put 1 cup (240 ml) into a saucepan, add 4 cups (1 liter) of water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to simmer, and cook about 50 to 60 minutes or until tender. Additional water may be needed to prevent the peas from cooking dry. Green split peas tend to break down after 60 minutes of cooking, creating a pleasantly thick soup base.

For cooking split yellow peas, follow the same method as for green split peas. However, they take slightly longer to become softened. Cook about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Cooked dried peas make an ideal thickening agent for soups and stews.


For serving a large gathering, I always double this recipe.

2 C. (480 ml) dried split peas
8 C. (2 liters) water
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1/2 t. dried rosemary, crushed in a mortar and pestle
1 t. salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 C. (360 ml) water
3 large carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large tomato, diced
1 large parsnip, sliced thin (optional)*

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Look over peas and discard any imperfect ones. Rinse peas and put them into a large stockpot along with the water, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Partially cover pot, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer 30 to 40 minutes or until peas are soft and broken down when pressed with a spoon.
  2. Put water, carrots, onion, tomato, and parsnip into a large wok or skillet. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
  3. Puree all ingredients together in batches in a blender for a smooth puree. If you prefer soup with more texture, puree in the food processor. If desired, some portion of the vegetables can be left whole for a little more texture.
  4. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, if needed, and serve hot with whole grain bread. Serves 6.

*Though the parsnip is optional, it always adds just a light touch of sweetness, making the soup much more flavorful.

CHUNKY VARIATION: To the already listed vegetables, add 2 turnips, diced, 4 stalks celery, diced, 2 broccoli crowns, chopped, 1/4 head cauliflower, chopped, 1 green bell pepper, chopped and 1 red bell pepper, chopped. Sauté these together in a small amount of water. Add to stockpot after pureeing the peas. Cook gently for about 5 to 10 minutes to blend flavors, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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