Most chefs will say there are only a couple of vegetables they will happily use frozen. Peas are usually at the top of that list, and for good reason. Not only does their small size allow them to freeze well with minimal compromise to flavor and texture, but they also happen to be one of the few vegetables that 95% of the year will taste better frozen.
That's because the moment you pluck pea pods from the vine, the sweet sugar inside the individual peas will start converting into starches. The difference between a fresh-picked pea and a day-old pea is easily noticeable (and we're talking both English peas, and their close cousin the sugar snap pea, though the former shows a more noticeable difference). So during the off-season, when fresh peas have to be shipped from faraway locations, by the time they reach your kitchen, they are bland, starchy, and not all that pleasant. Frozen peas, on the other hand, are flash frozen just after being picked, guaranteeing that they'll be sweet and tender when you cook them.
Of course, early spring is when this logic turns on its head. NOW is the time to get your butt over to a farmers' market to get some fresh peas, preferably picked that morning and cooked as soon as possible. Your taste buds will thank you.
To get those salivary glands started, here are 18 pea recipes that will work with either fresh blanched peas, or with frozen peas (for you poor souls who don't have access to fresh). Click through the slideshow above, or jump straight to a recipe below.
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- Spring Garden Hodgepodge of Radishes, Leeks, and Peas
- Balsamic-Glazed Ham With Basil English Peas
- Pasta with Snap Peas, Garlic, Lemon Zest, and Black Pepper (vegan)
- Skillet Chicken with Snap Peas, Mushrooms, and Coconut Curry
- Easy Sausage and Pea Orzo Risotto
- Stir-Fried Snap Peas and Mushrooms with Fish Sauce and Basil
- Seared Cod with Peas, Pancetta, and Wilted Lettuce
- Stir-Fried Velvet Chicken with Snap Peas and Lemon-Ginger Sauce
- Spring Vegetable Risotto With Asparagus, Zucchini, Fava Beans, Snap Peas, and Morels
- Spring Salad of Asparagus, Ramps, Snap Peas, and Peas, with Poached Egg and Lemon Zest Vinaigrette
- Pasta Salad with Peas and Pesto
- Basmati Rice and Pea Pilaf (Peas Pulao)
- Quick Pickled Sugarsnap Peas
- Indian Shrimp with Ginger and Peas
- French Peas
- Pasta with Sweet Pea Pistou and Chèvre
- Double Pea Pasta with Salmon
- Scallops with Pea Puree and Vermouth Sauce