Fresh peas are a delicious luxury, and there is a bountiful supply in gardens and at the markets; sweet, tender, shelling peas, crisp, bright green sugar snap peas, and firm, sweet-flavored, large-podded snow peas. We enjoy them raw as a snack, chopped into salads, briefly sautéed with butter, and lightly steamed with new potatoes.
High in protein, fiber and carbohydrates, peas have been an important food staple since 5700 BC. Once picked, the sugars in peas rapidly break down, which explains why peas are best eaten fresh off the vine.
In 1925, Clarence Birdseye, an American scientist and explorer, developed a method to freeze vegetables. Because of its long, cool, growing season, Aroostook County was the perfect place to cultivate peas for freezing. Up until 1971 when the Bird’s-Eye division of General Foods closed its pea-processing facility, peas were an integral part of the potato crop rotation and a valuable crop in Maine.
Fresh Pea Soup is an elegant way to savor fresh peas. The peas are cooked in stock with fresh herbs, and then pureed in the blender or food processor. Mint is a traditional flavoring, but basil or rosemary would be nice also.
To serve the soup, finish with ribbons of cream and add a fresh sprig of herbs. For the protein lover, I have added chopped lobster or shrimp to the bright green broth. Fresh Pea Soup is quick and easy to prepare, and perfect for a festive luncheon, or the start to a special dinner. For a few days every summer, we eat like a King, and enjoy peas every day.
Fresh Pea Soup
- 4 cups shelled peas
- ½ cup chopped onion, scallion or leek
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint or fresh herb of your choice
- sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
- ¼– ½ cup heavy cream
- In a soup pot, melt the butter and sauté the onion until soft and translucent. Add the stock and the fresh-shelled peas. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the peas are soft. Add the chopped fresh mint.
- Using an immersion blender, a food processor or blender, whirl the soup until smooth. Return to the stove and season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper. Whip the cream.
- To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and pour stripes of the cream over the soup. Garnish with a fresh mint leaf. Makes four servings.