Another fleeting joy that arrives at the farmers markets around here in May are what I call English peas, although the farmer who grew them at LB’s Farm calls them sweet peas. Whatever it is that you call peas that you need to shell, that’s what I’m talking about.
Anyway, the crop comes in here in North Carolina in May, but it doesn’t last long. LB’s Farm only had them for three weeks last year and predicted it would be about the same this year. Other peas, like sugar snaps and snow peas, also start showing up around the same time, but they usually last a little longer. But shelling peas…well, you had better grab them while you can.
I had several pea dishes in mind, so I ended up buying 3 pounds. About 2 hours later…I shelled them while I was watching Miscast 21…that’s what I had.
I never knew how many to buy because recipes always call for cups of shelled peas, while the peas themselves are sold unshelled in pints or pounds. So for my own edification, I actually measured them this year. I’m sharing my hard-earned education with you all, beloved readers.
The 3 pounds of unshelled peas translated to about 4 cups of shelled peas, or 1.3 cup per pound, or 1 quart/2 pints per pound:
Realizing that I never measured the shelled peas, I measured the mound of pea shells left over from my shelling. They wouldn’t all fit into the largest measuring cup I have, but they ended up being about 16 cups, or 4 quarts, or 8 pints. So, basically, you get about 1/4th of the quantity of the unshelled peas as the peas themselves.
Now I just have to remember next year that I figured this all out so I can know how many unshelled peas I need to buy for a specific dish.
The first thing I had to make with my wonderful fresh peas is THE recipe of spring––Pasta Primavera! In addition to the peas, I added the other spring delights of asparagus, sugar snap peas, and spring onions or scallions to a creamy sauce with parmesan cheese, all served over my latest favorite pasta, squiggly cavatappi. Unfortunately, they haven’t been selling asparagus at the Cary Downtown Farmers Market, so I was only able to get the peas (LB’s Farm), sugar snaps and scallions (Meadowhawk Farm), and cream (from Mapleview Fair local dairy but sold at the market by Queen B Farm), along with the cherry tomatoes (Parker Farm) I served on the side, at the CDFM. Still, it was a lovely meal, accompanied with some bread from a local bakery.
This may be the last week for shelling peas at our Farmers Market, at least, so if you want the freshest of peas for your own Pasta Primavera, hit the Market early, because the farmers do sell out. I can tell you, it’s worth it!