Gardening for Health

By Maria Price

Peas and Health From the Garden

Peas are a wonderful treat for this time of year. I am harvesting snap peas and shelling peas. Peas are a cool weather crop, so as the heat increases, our pea harvests will start to decline.

Peas can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked. I planted my peas in March for best yields. Sow in well-drained soil and ensure adequate fertility and a pH of 6.5 to 6.8. You can adjust the pH with ground limestone or wood ashes, ideally in the fall prior to spring planting. It’s good to treat peas with inoculant to encourage the formation of nitrogen-producing nodules on the plant roots. This enriches the soil and results in larger plants and increased yields.

Sugar snap peas have an edible pod. Sugar snap peas germinate well in cold, wet soils. The vines can grow 72 inches tall and will need trellising. They yield well over both hot and cold weather.

Fresh shelling peas are rarely available in grocery stores, so try growing your own. I am growing a variety of shelling peas called Bistro, from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. The 24-inch vines are easy to harvest and are very compact, disease resistant-plants. They produce 2¾-inch to 3-inch pods filled with seven to eight sweet peas.

Researchers have found that peas contain a compound called chlorophyllin, which is the pigment responsible for giving them their shiny green hue. A 2012 Oregon State University study found that chlorophyll in green vegetables offers protection against cancer and the antioxidants and saponins in peas may help the body reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and ease the symptoms of the common cold. Chlorophyllin has a special molecular shape that allows it to grab cancer-causing chemicals in the body. The fiber in peas binds with bile from the liver and helps to remove cholesterol.

It’s best to steam peas rather than boil them to retain their nutrients.

A great way to have both snap peas and shelled peas is over a dish of cheese ravioli in a brown butter sauce. Melt 1/3 cup butter until the butter turns brown and aromatic. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and two tablespoons water. Remove from heat. Add cooked cheese ravioli. Garnish with pea tendrils, sugar snap peas, green peas, mint and some shaved parmesan. Delicious.