English peas; sweet peas; green peas
Fresh peas are creatures of cool weather—not cool enough to be cold, but not warm enough to be hot either. In other words, spring, which means their appearance is brief in most places. Once freed from their inedible pod, peas have a delicate sweet flavor that's surprisingly versatile. If it's not fresh pea season (or you are not up for shucking peas) frozen peas are a terrific alternative. They're usually picked when young and tender, then immediately frozen, so they taste sweeter than fresh peas that have been hanging around for too long. Peas that are dried and split are used in pea soup.
1 lb. of peas in their pods yields = about 1 cup (6 oz.) shelled peas.
Lima beans or edamame can substitute for peas in many recieps.
For best flavor, choose small fresh peas, which are younger, sweeter, and more tender than large ones. Look for pods that are firm and green. Go for medium pods rather than large, thick-skinned ones, which are more mature and contain larger, tougher peas. Break open a pod and check the peas inside. They should be small, bright green, and firm; if you taste one, it should be tender and sweet.
Shelling fresh peas is a bit tedious, but it's easy and worth every second. To do it, remove the stem end of the pod, peel the stringy fiber from the seam, pry the pod open, and run your thumb along the interior to detach the peas.
Peas don't have much of a shelf life. Store pods in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator and use them within a couple of days. Once they're shelled, the best way to store peas is to freeze them. First blanch them for a minute or two in boiling salted water and then shock them in an ice-water bath until cool, to help maintain their bright color. Drain and freeze them in zip-top bags. They will keep for five to six months.