I am coming late for dinner as far as garden-variety English peas are concerned.

While area farmers tell me I’ve only got one more week, maybe two, to buy these highly seasonal gems, I am just now answering the question I ask myself every time I spend an hour – sometimes meditatively, sometime begrudgingly – liberating an always disappointing number of peas from their voluminously fibrous pods. What can I do with these spent cases besides using them to fill my 5-gallon compost bucket? Though I’ve woken up to the wonders of composting, it still seems like a waste of good produce.

If I were a kitchen apprentice in a luxe restaurant in the south of France, in addition to breaking the stem of the pod, pulling the strings down the length of its sides, pressing the pod between my thumb and forefinger to open it, and pushing out the individual peas, I might then use a razor-sharp knife to carve out the pod’s vellum, the tough, parchment paper-like inner lining of the pod, before blanching the pods so they can once again be used to carry peas – these ones cooked in a butter sauce – to lucky eaters.

But I am in my own midcoast Maine kitchen and the shelling of said peas has already tried my patience, so my pea pod options are various forms of liquification. I can make a broth to provide sweet, mossy green undertones to dishes like Triple Pea Risotto (see recipe); an army-green chilled soup for hot summer evenings; or an emerald-green puree that adds a pop of color to anything from ricotta cheese bruschetta to trendy summer cocktails.

Like the peas themselves, which start to lose their sweetness the moment they are plucked from the vine, the pods should be either used or frozen within hours of shucking for best flavor.

To make broth, place the pods, strings and stems into a large pot. Cover them with cold water. Place the pot over medium high heat until it starts to boil. Reduce the heat, simmer for 30 minutes, cool, strain and store as you would vegetable broth.


To make soup from the pods from 2 pounds of purchased English peas, sweat 1 finely diced sweet onion and 3 chopped garlic cloves in 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large pot. When the aromatics are soft, add 1/4 cup of dry white wine, the pods and a teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring until the pods are bright green. Add 4 cups of broth (pea pod if you have it) and 3 sprigs of thyme. Simmer the soup for about 30 minutes until the pods are soft. Use an immersion blender to partially break down the pods. One ladleful at a time, push the soup through a food mill or a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl. At this point, Julia Child would stir a bit of cream into the soup – follow her lead if you like. Chill the mixture completely before seasoning with grated nutmeg, black pepper and a drop or two of hot sauce.

To make the puree, blanch pods in batches in boiling salted water until they are bright green (30 to 60 seconds). Use a standing blender to puree the pods with a bit of the blanching water and strain the solids. Chill the puree immediately to preserve its eye-popping color.

With any of these solutions, the solids still end up in compost bucket, but the volume will be reduced by more than half and the pods’ flavor preserved for future use.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at: cburn1227@gmail.com.

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