Nothing beats the delicate aroma and sweet flavour of home-grown British peas - pod and cook the best ones in summer.
FRESH OR FROZEN
Available all year round, fresh British peas are at their peak during summer. In their frozen state, peas are one of the few vegetables that retain their flavour. If given a choice between buying peas well-past their prime, but in their pod, and frozen ones - go for the latter.
As the season moves on from June and July, peas in their pod become bigger and develop a more pronounced flavour. They also take longer to cook.
After picking, their naturally sweet character starts to become starchy and floury in texture. To preserve their fresh, sweet flavour, it's best to cook them soon after picking. Look for firm, brightly-hued pods with a crisp texture. Mature peas with a floury texture are ideal for soup-making.
Petit pois are immature fresh peas and not a separate variety. They have a distinctive sweet flavour.
If podding peas is too much of a labour of love, many supermarkets sell fresh and tender shelled peas, but at a price!
THE PEA FAMILY
MANGETOUT A member of the podded pea family of vegetables, mangetout is native to western Asia. Unlike most pea varieties, these ones don't contain a stiff, difficult to digest inner parchment inside their pods, and are eaten whole, with the tiny, undeveloped peas inside.
SUGAR SNAP PEAS Similar to mange tout, but more rounded in shape. Sugar snap peas are eaten with the pods and are noted for their delicate taste. Aim to serve them slightly crunchy rather than fully-cooked. They make a great addition to stir-fries and salads...
YELLOW SPLIT PEAS Split dried yellow peas, dal, are an Indian staple and soaked before cooking. Unlike fresh peas, these pulses have a meaty robust character, well-suited to soups and stews.
IN THE KITCHEN
Besides making a great side dish when blanched and treated to a pat of butter, they also make tasteful additions to salads.
For every kilo of pods, you'll end up with around 400-450g peas. It's an idea to set aside around 225-250g per person, if you're serving them as a side dish.