Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Spring Peas with Mint

Basket of Peas and Mint
Fresh Green Spring Ingredients

Recipe Adapted from The Secret Garden Cookbook

Peas are the quintessential springtime crop. One of the earliest harvests of the year, springtime peas are particularly favored in snowy climates. Where few fresh veggies are available in winter, people particularly appreciate signs of spring. In Victorian England, before large-scale transportation of foods, peas were even more popular to grow and eat. According to The Secret Garden Cookbook, the pea plant was dubbed “prince of the vegetable garden,” and Victorian recipes called for up to 4 cups of peas per serving.  This delightful recipe pairs peas with perky mint, another favorite springtime flavor from the garden.

3 Pats of Butter and Mint on top of Cooked Peas
Simple Butter and Mint Topping
To boost the minty flavor, I’ve added an extra splash of mint to the original Secret Garden Cookbook recipe. In addition to simmering the peas with fresh mint sprigs, I’ve added a sprinkle of chopped mint to the completed dish. Use a strongly flavored spearmint variety for best results. These plants are hardy perennials with rough textured leaves. They are frequently bunched for sale in stores and farmers’ markets, and are easy to grow in gardens and landscaping. Avoid using peppermint; its flavor is too strong and one-dimensional. Pineapple mint, apple mint, lemon mint, etc. can be used, but you will likely need more than the recipe calls for to get a distinct minty flavor.

Peas and Mint Simmering in Saucepan
The Simmering Process
If you enjoyed reading the Victorian classic, The Secret Garden, about children growing strong by eating local whole foods and exercising outdoors, you might also like The Secret Garden Cookbook.  Filled with stories about Victorian foods and customs in town and country as well as recipes, it’s fun for both children and adults, just like The Secret Garden. Children can prepare many of the recipes themselves, like this one. Instead of using a knife to chop the mint (my addition, not in original recipe), younger children can snip it finely with scissors. Enjoy the last of local spring peas with this classic and uplifting recipe.

Single Serving of Peas with Mint
Eat Like a Victorian
Spring Peas with Mint
serves ~4, or 1 Victorian

2 lbs. fresh peas
6 – 8 large sprigs mint*
¾ cup water
1½ tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. butter

Shell the peas and discard pods. You will have about 2 cups.

Prepare mint for boiling: wash and cut mint sprigs into 4” – 5” pieces that will fit into a medium saucepan. Prepare 6 pieces, or more if your mint is mild.

Prepare mint for topping: finely chop or snip mint to make 2 teaspoons. Set aside with measured butter.

Bring water, sugar, and 4 prepared pieces of mint to boil in medium saucepan. Add peas, stir, and cover. Return to boil.

With heat on medium to medium high, simmer peas 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir, and taste. If not minty enough, add 2 more pieces of mint. Unless peas are tender enough to eat, return to heat and simmer 1 more minute.

Stir peas and taste again for doneness. If not ready, simmer another 30 seconds, stir and taste again. Repeat in another 30 seconds as needed, remembering to stir.

Remove peas from saucepan to serving bowl with slotted spoon. Discard mint. Toss with butter and finely chopped mint. Garnish with whole mint leaves if desired.

*Use a strong spearmint for most predictable results.

Spring Chicken, Young Chard, and Spring Peas with Mint
(Springtime) Dinner is Served

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