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Springtime is the perfect time to enjoy fresh peas. Experience the flavors of the three most common type of peas: English peas (also called garden or sweet peas), snow peas, and snap peas.

The pods of English peas are firm and rounded. The little round green peas inside need to be removed and the pod discarded. The peas are sweet and can be eaten raw or cooked. Most store-bought peas that are sold frozen or shelled are English peas. They get starchy if they’re harvested too late or if they’re not cooked or frozen quickly after picking. They’re delicious raw in a cold salad or mashed into a hummus. My kids will even eat them frozen straight from the freezer! Of course, they’re also delicious cooked in chicken pot pie, fried rice or vegetable soup.

Snow peas have flat pods with tiny round peas inside. The pod is edible, but best when the tough string along the edge is removed. Snow peas are slightly sweet. Enjoy raw with cold dips or in a salad. The most common use of snow peas is in stir-fry dishes. Snap peas, on the other hand, are a cross between English peas and snow peas. They’re sweet with a rounded, crunchy edible pod. Like snow peas, the string along the edge of a snap pea is generally discarded. Snap peas are so sweet and crunchy, that they compete with carrots as being the best raw veggie for snacking. Sauté, steam, grill or roast snap peas; just don’t overcook them or they’ll wind up losing their prized crunch.

Store peas in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer for 3-5 days. Once peas are shelled, cook or blanch and freeze immediately. Peas are an excellent source of vitamin C, a good source of vitamin A, folate and fiber. Spring into the sweet flavor of peas!

Pea Mint Salad

1 fresh lemon (1 tablespoon lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice)

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

⅛ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon black pepper

1 pound fresh, shelled English peas or frozen peas, thawed and drained

3-4 mint leaves, chopped

In a medium bowl, whisk the grated lemon zest, lemon juice, red onion, oil, salt and pepper. Stir in the peas and mint. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours to allow flavors to blend.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition facts (per serving): 100 calories, 5 grams fat, 120 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 4 grams protein

Smith is nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.