Despite their tiny size, peas are loaded with nutrients. How long do peas last? How can you preserve them? In case you are wondering, you are in the right place! This post fills you in on these humble vegetables.
A brief History
Pea is an ancient crop. It existed wildly in the Mediterranean region, before domestication came into effect. Cultivation spread to other European and Asian regions due to colonization and trade.
Nowadays, they are grown in many regions across the globe. They thrive in temperate zones. Besides being used for human consumption, peas are also used as livestock feed.
Types of Peas
Scientifically, peas are known as Pisum sativum. These climbing plants belong to the family Fabaceae.
There are several types from this family. These are snow, sugar snap as well as garden/ sweet/ English peas. We also have split ones, but these are just garden peas split in halves.
Peas are usually enclosed in pods. Additionally, they have a predominant green hue, although others can turn yellow.
Snow peas and sugar snap peas have edible pods. In as much as their pods are edible, the stringy edge in the pods is usually sliced off.
In contrast, the pods of garden peas are not palatable. Did you know that snap peas are actually a cross between snow and garden peas?
You may be wondering what distinguishes the three varieties. Well, here are a few comparisons:
Garden or sweet peas are the largest among the three. Snow peas are the tiniest, whereas snap ones are medium sized.
Snow peas are flat, whereas the other two are rounded. Split ones are also flat.
Whole garden peas and split peas are firmer compared to snow ones. Snap peas fall in between soft and firm.
All types give off a mild, nutty flavor. Sugar snap and garden peas have an extra dash of sweetness. Generally, they blend well with almost all dishes. When cooked, these vegetables have a starchy, creamy taste.
Peas are popularly eaten raw or cooked. They are also conveniently easy to prepare. You can eat them on their own or incorporate into other dishes. These include: stir-fries, salads, soups, hummus and sautés.
They also make a wonderful snack, whereby you coat them with batter and deep fry. This snack is popular in Indian cuisine.
You may easily overlook them in the grocery aisle, shove them aside on your plate, but these humble peas are extremely nutritious. Don’t let their tiny size fool you.
Peas are lauded for high protein levels, containing more than most legumes. Besides proteins, they are rich sources of folate, vitamins A, K, C, B6, thiamin (B1), iron, manganese, dietary fiber, copper as well as potassium.
How important are these nutrients to your body? Let’s find out:
These are your body’s building blocks. Proteins are responsible for tissue, bones, cartilage growth and development. They also facilitate chemical reactions associated with digestion, blood clotting, muscle contraction as well as energy release. Additionally, proteins can be in form of hormones which regulate diverse processes in the body.
Vitamins A, K, C, folate, B6, B1
These necessary nutrients play vital roles in the body. For instance, vitamin A promotes healthy vision.
On the other hand, vitamin C facilitates tissue growth and aids in iron absorption. Similarly, vitamin K promotes blood clotting and maintains calcium levels.
Folate is crucial in growth, as it helps in production of red and white blood cells. Additionally, vitamin B6 is key in the production of serotonin, hence is vital in mood regulation.
On the other hand, vitamin B1 helps in food metabolism, converting carbohydrates into energy.
Otherwise known as bulk or roughage, dietary fiber promotes bowel movement. Dietary fiber is also effective in weight management. This is because it creates satiety, thus making you feel full for long.
Minerals like Iron, Potassium, Copper and Manganese
Trace minerals are essential for numerous body processes. For instance, copper collaborates with iron in red blood cell production. It also metabolizes fat into energy, hence is paramount for obesity control.
These minerals are also responsible for fluid balance, metabolism, reducing inflammation, blood circulation as well as regulating absorption of other nutrients.
Like other vegetables, peas are highly perishable. Apart from this, poor storage results in loss of nutrients and potency. As such, knowing their shelf life is such a relief!
Peas are normally sold as fresh, par-boiled or frozen. Buying them unshelled is not only cheaper, it also ensures that they are fresh.
However, shelled and packaged types offer convenience in terms of storage and preparation. Nonetheless, if you have unshelled ones, avoid hulling them until when ready to use.
Peas come with a sell by date that gives guidance on quality. Therefore, they can remain in good shape after the sell by date.
In terms of shelf life, fresh ones have the shortest shelf life. They keep well for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Avoid storing them in the pantry, unless you wish to use them the same day or the day after.
Fresh snap peas have a shelf life of up to 1 week. This is because they contain a thicker pod than snow peas.
In case you have cooked peas, store them in the refrigerator. They keep well for up to 1 week.
In order to reap maximum benefits, prolong their shelf life. You can do so by drying, canning or freezing.
For instance, well dried ones last indefinitely. Additionally, they still retain their quality and nutritional value. When using dried peas, simply rehydrate them.
Similarly, freezing extends the shelf life for up to 1 year. Avoid freezing raw ones. Instead, blanch them first in boiling water for a few minutes. Shock them in ice water to stop further cooking.
Lastly, canned ones also last fairly long. You can try canning at home or use store-bought ones. Store unopened cans in the pantry, away from direct light. They keep well for 1 year. Refrigerate opened cans and consume within 6 days.
Easy spoilage indicators are:
- Slimy texture on both seeds and pods.
- Discolouration. When deteriorating, they change into dark brown or black. This applies to both fresh and canned ones.
- For frozen ones, you will notice crinkly texture and lots of freezer burns as well.
- Visible mold growth.
- Off-odor .
- Oozing of watery liquids on flesh and pods.