Which cuisine do you think of when you think about peas? French, with petits pois aux laitues? Italian, which offers piselli con prosciutto? Indian, and its mutter paneer? British, with buttered peas with mint?
And when you reach for peas, are they frozen or fresh?
Worldwide, most peas are consumed straight from the deep freeze. Many would argue that frozen peas are the better choice, for quality. They certainly can’t be beat in terms of convenience, and they do taste good. I am not immune to their charms when pea season is still a ways off.
But when you get the chance to eat sweet fresh green peas, you can’t help but notice the difference. To prove this point, the chef Fergus Henderson serves diners a pile of raw peas in the pod at his renowned restaurant St. John in London. These ultrafresh peas (known worldwide as English peas, but called garden peas in England) are meant to be enjoyed as a hands-on nibble before dinner.
When you tire of raw or plain buttered English peas, turn to other varieties. Throw flat-podded snow peas or sugar snap peas into the wok for a spicy stir-fry, or consider the brothy risotto-like dish called risi e bisi. I like to use sugar snaps to make my fresh pea soup with miso, but when you get right down to it, all of these types of pea are really interchangeable as long as they’re young and tender. Spring is truly the time for peas, since they grow best in cool weather. They are happening now, so indulge.