Spring is the season to enjoy fresh green peas and sugar snaps.
Joanne Ciccarello – staff
Peas have long gotten a bad rap. "Eat your peas!" is a classic parent mantra, calling up images of stern mothers hovering over their children as they watch them painstakingly gulp down every last pea on their plates. But more and more, peas are not a dreaded guest at the dinner table but rather a welcome addition to any menu.
Just ask Jennifer Verrill, co-owner with her parents of Verrill Farm, a popular farm stand, bakery, and deli in Concord, Mass. "Those first peas of the season are just as exciting as the first stalks of asparagus," says Ms. Verrill, who is partial to sugar snap peas. "I love all peas, but the snap peas are so easy since you don't have to shell them."
She and other chefs at Verrill Farm cook both traditional English peas and snap peas, incorporating them into salads, stir-fries, risotto, and a vibrant green soup.
And when Verrill returns home, she serves peas to her two young daughters, who don't have to be told to clean their plates. "It's one of the only vegetables they will eat," she says, adding that the girls like to pop the peas out of their pods – in their home kitchen and in the fields at the farm.
Verrill's father, Steve, devotes about half an acre each to the sugar snap peas and English peas (also called garden peas or green peas). When researching different varieties of peas, he looks for ones that are great tasting and have short vines that don't require trellising.
Some of his favorite sugar snap peas are Cascadia, Sugar Ann, and Sugar Sprint. Of the English peas, he likes Dakota (an heirloom variety), Green Arrow, and more recent variations of Progress No. 9, which is an old standby from when he was a kid.
At home, Mr. Verrill likes a no-fuss recipe. "They're best with a little milk and butter, salt and pepper," he says, adding: "I'm the only one in the family who likes them like that."
His customers prefer more sophisticated recipes as well. Two of the most popular take-out dishes made with peas are the Asparagus and Pea Risotto (recipe at left) and Fresh Spring Soup, both creations of resident chef Guida Ponte.
For the risotto recipe, Ms. Ponte likes to use fresh sugar snap peas, sliced on the diagonal so they look their prettiest.