Peas and Pods

Peas and Pods
fresh black-eyed pea
fresh black-eyed pea
In their fresh form, black-eyed peas are pale green and have a wonderful, nutty flavor. Unlike dried black-eyed peas, they don't need to be soaked, and they cook much faster. They arrive in markets during the late summer and early fall.
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fresh peas
fresh peas
Fresh peas are sweeter and more tender than their dry counterparts. To shell one, just pull down the string and squeeze the pod at the seams, then scrape out the peas and discard the pods. As with corn, freshness is crucial since peas begin converting their sugar into starch as soon as they're picked. The freshest pods are brightly colored and snap crisply when you bend them. Fresh peas don't need to be soaked and they cook fairly quickly.
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garden pea
garden pea
These appear in the summer months, and they're so sweet that it's well worth the trouble to shell them. Freshness is crucial, so look for brightly colored pods that are crisp enough to snap. Petits pois are a small and tender variety.
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okra
okra
When cooked, okra exudes a slimy substance, which serves as a wonderful thickener in stews. Unfortunately, that sliminess puts off many diners, but you can minimize it by buying small, fresh okra and by cooking it very briefly. Okra's popular in the South, where they fry it in cornmeal, pickle it (this also gets rid of the sliminess), and use it to thicken their gumbos.
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snow pea
snow pea
You eat these whole, pod and all. They're often stir-fried very briefly (no more than a minute), but they're also good raw. They're easy to prepare, just wash and trim the ends. Some people string them as well, but that's not necessary. Select crisp, flat snow peas that snap when you break them.
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sugar snap
sugar snap
This cross between an English pea and a snow pea is sweet and crisp, and is eaten whole, pod and all. Sugar snaps can be served raw, briefly stir-fried, pickled, or steamed as a side dish.
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