Sugars in fresh green peas begin converting to starch as soon as they are picked from the vine. Preserve them as soon as they are harvested, or within 24 hours after purchase from a market. The best food preservation methods for shelled green peas are freezing, salting (brining), drying, and canning. Preserve sugar snap pea pods and snow pea pods by freezing or salting.
- One pound of green peas is equivalent to 3 to 4 cups pods, 1 to 1½ cups shelled peas, or 1 to 1½ cups purée.
- One pound of snow peas or sugar snap peas is equivalent to 2 to 3 dry pints (4 to 6 cups trimmed).
How to prepare peas
- Shell green peas by splitting the pods and scooping out the peas. Discard or compost pods. Snow peas may be shelled or left whole.
- For snow peas or sugar snap peas, you may want to remove the string. To remove the string, trim or pinch one end and pull down the inside curve to remove the string.
- Best longest storage life, steam-blanch prepared peas 1 to 2 minutes (until tender-crisp). Cool in ice water (10-30 minutes) and drain in a colander.
How to freeze peas
Spread prepared, blanched, and drained shelled peas or pea pods on a parchment lined tray. Freeze 30 minutes, or until solid. Pack into freezer- safe containers.
How to preserve salted peas
Salting vegetables is an old-fashioned method that still works great. Use only young, very fresh peas. Prepare shelled peas or pea pods and then weigh peas before blanching to determine amount of salt to use. For every pound of prepared peas, measure 3.2 ounces (1⁄3 cup) pickling salt. Blanch and drain peas; then pat dry. In a large bowl, toss peas and pickling salt until evenly mixed. Pack 1 pound peas with salt into a sterilized 1-quart glass jar (or 5 pounds into a gallon crock), leaving 1 to 2 inches headspace. Press peas without crushing to extract liquid to cover vegetables. Weight the peas to keep them submerged, and cover the container. Set aside in a cool, dark place. In 24 hours, if the liquid does not cover the food completely, prepare a 20 percent brine using 7.7 ounces (3⁄4 cup) pickling salt per quart of water. Add enough brine to cover the peas generously. Cover and weight again to keep submerged. Cure (pickle) the vegetables 2 to 4 weeks, and then store in a cold cellar or refrigerator up to 6 months. If white scum appears on the surface, remove it. If peas become moldy, soft, or develop a disagreeable odor, they have spoiled and must be discarded.
How to dry shelled peas (or beans)
If you grow beans or peas, simply dry them on the vine at the end of the season. They may need additional oven or dehydrator drying after harvest. To dry indoors, preheat oven or food dehydrator to 130°F to 140°F. Prepare, blanch, and drain shelled peas or beans; pat dry before placing on drying trays. Dry until vegetables rattle. Cool until no longer warm and then store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place up to 2 months. Freeze for longer storage.
Drying also works well for pea pods, if you want to enjoy then as a dried vegetable snack, or to add to soups and stews.
Rehydrate dried vegetables by covering with boiling water and soaking 20 to 30 minutes, or until they have plumped up to their original size. Use in favorite recipes calling for fresh or frozen. Or, grind dry peas into a powder (using a coffee grinder reserved for spices and vegetables). Add boiling water to make pea soup, enhance with cream or butter, if desired.
Recipes for enjoying shelled peas, snap peas, and snow peas
Pea “hummus” spread (2 cups spread or 25 appetizer servings): Place in the jar of a blender or food processor 1 cup fresh, frozen, or rehydrated dried peas, 1 cup soaked dried or drained canned chickpeas, 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 3 tablespoons chopped onion or chives, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or mint (or 1 teaspoon dried), 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (or to taste) ground cumin or mace or curry powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Process until smooth. Scoop into a bowl and drizzle with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Spread on plain or garlic toast as an appetizer or accompaniment to soup.
Cream of pea soup (4 servings): Heat 2 tablespoons butter or oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Saute 2 finely chopped medium shallots for 3 minutes. Pour 2 cups water and 3 cups fresh, frozen, or rehydrated dried peas. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.Cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until the peas are tender. Puree soup using a blender or food processor. Return to the saucepan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of cream or dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt. If desired, add a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley, chives, green onions, or bacon and a few croutons.
Pasta with peas and cream (4 servings): Sauté 4 sliced green onions over medium heat for 2 minutes, reduce heat to medium low, cover, and let onion sweat for 5-8 minutes, or until it has reduced greatly in volume and is very tender. Add 2 cups pasta cooking water and 1/2 cup cream. Raise heat to simmer liquids gently for 8-10 minutes, or until reduced by half. Add 2 cups fresh, frozen, or rehydrated dried peas and simmer 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Add 4 cups cooked pasta (or 1 pound fresh) and toss to coat pasta evenly with the cream sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese and freshly ground black pepper. Variation: add 1 cup of cooked, diced chicken meat or ham along with the peas.
Beef or shrimp with peas (4 servings): In a small bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice wine, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch. In a wok or skillet heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium high heat and 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root and 1 tablespoon minced garlic for 30 seconds. Add 1 pound thinly sliced beef round steak or 1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp, and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Beef should be nicely browned or shrimp should be pink on all sides. Stir in 2 cups fresh, frozen, or rehydrated shelled peas or snow peas, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or sesame seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until the sauce is thickens. Serve over rice or noodles.