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Photo by Natasha Gardner

Fresh Picks: Peas

Each week, we'll tell you the freshest thing to taste from Colorado farmers and chefs. 

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We hope you’re hungry!

This summer, we’re highlighting a must-eat-right-now ingredient every week. For our third week, we tackle peas.

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Peas | Family: Fabaceae/Leguminosae

From the Farmer and Chef: If you think all peas are alike, you should plan to eat at Eric Skokan’s Black Cat Farm Table Bistro or Bramble & Hare this summer. Skokan has planted almost an acre of sugar snap peas at his Black Cat Farm, which should result in nearly 10,000 pounds of produce. But these aren’t your garden-variety pods. “I fell into an email conversation with Calvin Lamborn, who is known as the originator of the sugar snap pea,” Skokan says. “He offered to let us grow some unpublished pea varieties that he came up with. This big grow out of new-to-us peas are also being tested at the French Laundry’s garden. Skokan expects to have a purple sugar snap, one with curly leaves, and a yellow variety. “This guy is my hero,” Skokan says. “I’m super excited.”

Good for You: Peas are a well-rounded nutrient powerhouse. Adding a spoonful to your meal will load you up on vitamin K, manganese, vitamin B1, fiber, and vitamin C. Pretty impressive for such a tiny seed, right?

At the Market: Don’t be surprised to see some hail-marked peas this year (see photo), but don’t be turned off: The cool spring helped ensure that this year’s crop will be mighty tasty. Freshness is key here, so look for attached leaves or tendrils that haven’t yet wilted. And while peas are often available all season, there is about a two-week window in June when they are at their peak. When buying, make sure to stock up on extras. If you need two cups of shelled peas for a recipe, you’ll need to purchase several handfuls of pods. When in doubt, ask the farmer to help you gauge the right amount.

Around Town: Don’t miss Root Down’s kale and pea salad, a tumble of tender kale and sweet peas, pickled fiddlehead ferns, mint, and avocado. Crispy sweet potatoes and nuggets of Tender Belly bacon impart crunch and heartiness. Share the dish, or order it as your entrée. Peas also make a strong showing in Luca’s grilled octopus insalata, which pairs the pods and tendrils with fingerling potatoes, mint, and chile aïoli. (Tip: Try to get a bit of mint in each bite; the refreshing herb cuts through the smokiness.)

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In Your Kitchen: To be honest, fresh peas rarely make it into recipes at my house. I leave a bowl of sugar snaps or shelled peas on the counter and eat them like candy throughout the day. By the time supper rolls around, my main ingredient is gone. The solution? Grow or purchase twice as much; I’ve never regretted it. For pods, my go-to recipe is to toss the peas with olive oil and salt and char in a grill basket (I firmly believe this contraption was invented just for this vegetable). Serve immediately or make with a glaze. When a crowd is set to arrive, I whip up a lemony pea puree to top grilled slices of bread. If it’s too hot to cook, mix up April Bloomfield’s snap pea salad with burrata. Looking for more ideas? 5280: The Cookbook is scattered with recipes for fresh peas. Check out Sarto’s Chilled Spring Pea Sipper appetizer on page 43 and Il Posto’s Cod with Pea Purée and Leeks in Cartoccio on page 62.

 

Natasha Gardner, Articles Editor

Natasha Gardner writes and edits longform journalism and multimedia projects for 5280 and is a regular columnist for 5280.com.

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