Monday, April 18, 2011

"Besides potatoes, corn, and peas, what vegetables do you like?"

I live in the Midwest.  I counsel Midwesterners.  Midwesterners eat a Midwestern diet.  Traditionally, we grow a lot of potatoes, wheat, and corn and raise a lot of cattle.  So that's what we eat.  It's what our grandparents and parents grew up on and fixed in their homes.  I often ask, "Besides potatoes, corn, and peas, what vegetables do you like?"  (Mainly because these are all starchy veggies and I'm looking for any non-starchy vegetables that they like).  In response, I get a lot of blank stares.  Not their fault.  They just haven't been introduced to other types of veggies.  However, we now have more access to different vegetables and fruits than ever before and we should use that to our nutritional advantage.

I am going to try to do regular posts about seasonal produce that you might not always include on your grocery list.  These posts are not for you produce section rockstars (although any preparation ideas are welcome!).  These posts are for those who need to shake out of that potato, green beans,and corn rotation that's been going on far too long.  You know who you are....

Spring produce that you should try this week:


Sugar snap peas are one of my absolute favorite spring vegetables (although technically they are a fruit...but that's another post).  This variety of peas is a cross between garden peas and snow peas.  This results in a delicious combination of an edible pod and, unlike the snow pea, larger and sweeter peas on the inside.  The sugar snap pea has been around for a few centuries, but was not really available in the United States until the late 1970's.  No wonder our grandparents didn't eat them! 

They are a cool weather crop and are available from late spring to early summer.  Fresh snap peas have a limited distribution throughout the U.S. and are most often available pre-packaged in the refrigerated section of the produce aisles.  You can also find them frozen, but don't expect to see them among the other canned peas because the canning process turns them into mush.  Bigger supermarkets or Wal-Marts should carry fresh snap peas consistently this time of year.  I can't find them every time that I shop at my local grocery store, but every once in awhile I get lucky.  Granted, I could probably ask the produce manager what days they are delivered, but there's something thrilling about such an unexpected surprise when I roll past the bagged salad (it's the small things in life isn't it?).

The best thing about these peas is how easy it is to prepare them.  Many times they are sold in steamable packages and only need to be popped into the microwave.  If your package isn't steamable or if microwaving plastic freaks you out, just put them in a saucepan with ~1 inch of water and let them steam.  They honestly only need to be cooked for 3-4 minutes or just until tender.  Any longer and they will lose some of their sweet taste.  I only add a little salt and pepper.  Sugar snap peas are pretty flavor-packed and don't need a lot of extras.

Health benefits:
  • 1 cup has 67 calories, 0.3 g fat, 11.4 g carbs, 5.2 g protein
  • Good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin (the last 3 are all B vitamins and necessary for us to be able to process other nutrients).
  • Also a source of iron, phosphorus, and potassium
  • 1 cup has 4.5 grams of fiber.  For perspective, you could eat 2.5 cups and have almost half your daily fiber requirement.
  • For anyone counting carbs, sugar snap peas are considered a non-starchy vegetable.  If you eat 3 or more cups, count it as 1 carb serving.
When you buy them, look for bright green, firm pods and avoid any that are yellowed or speckled. 

Anyone else love sugar snap peas??


N said...

Such a fun blog, Alex! I love reading your ideas on nutrition! I totally agree with you that in America, we are rarely introduced to other vegetables growing up. Moving to China, I've realized that there was so much I was missing out on!
Natalie Wellman

Gina said...

We LOVE LOVE LOVE Sugar Snap Peas...esp. Ezekiel and I, we eat them by the bagful! lol :)

sabrina said...

1. I love that Nat commented! Oh dgroup reunion on Alex's blog! Haha!
2. You live in the midwest??
3. I have to admit I avoid sugar snap peas and snow peas bc I cant remember the difference and I am not a big fan of one of them. Which ones are more often used in stir fry?
4. You got me with all the good nutrients in them, I will try them next time I grocery shop! Geez... I think I am going to hate and love these posts : )

Alex said...

Ha Sabrina! I was waiting for one of my Southern friends to comment on my Midwestern-ness. In fact, I figured some might not read it, out of principle. :)

Alex said...

Oh yeah, snow peas are most often served in stir fry here. Let me know what you think when you try the sugar snaps. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

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