"Every house where love abides and friendship is a guest, is surely home, and home sweet home for there the heart can rest." -Henry Van Dyke

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Harvesting and preserving peas

I've been busy that I'm way behind with this post. Our weather here is hot, peas are no longer producing but I'll write about them anyway because I have all of these photos! :) Peas thrive in cool weather so next year I'll start even earlier. It has been a good season for growing peas. Although the snow peas took up a huge amount of space, it was worth having a place for them since I harvested every other day. It was my first time growing snow peas and I'm thankful they did well.

Taiwan Sugar snow peas was a successful variety and I look forward to planting them again. The peas were sweet with a nice crunchy texture. The little ones were tender and even sweeter. Try not to let snow peas grow too big because they become stringy and hard to chew. From what I learned, it's better to pick when they're flat in appearance and about 2 to 3 inches long. Tenderness and flavor depends on the timing of harvest. Peas and pods are edible and delicious in stir-fries, noodles, soups and whatever your heart desires… 

Pick snow peas twice a week or more if they're prolific. When I harvested often, they produced more. I fertilized with an organic all-purpose fertilizer once in May and that was all.

prefer using a sharp cultivating scissor by cutting the stem of the peas than picking by hand. This prevents from pulling the pods and tendrils. Damaging the plants will limit the harvest. In addition, check out this helpful post from veggiegardener.com on how and when to pick peas.

Our plan is to continue preserving vegetables to save money on groceries. Organic food is crazy expensive and it's becoming difficult to budget for healthy eating. My husband has two jobs. The second job he recently obtained is a part-time graveyard shift. The hours are rough but I'm proud of him for working hard. He's doing what's needed to provide for us. My goal is to become frugal, resourceful in our home, creative and still feed my family wholesome, yummy food! 

Putting snow peas in the freezer is a great way to store them. I'm not sure we have enough for the winter because we're going through them quickly––they taste that wonderful. Now I know I should plant more in the future. If you have abundant crops, freezing is one way of storing all those beautiful harvest. Before you freeze snow peas properly, there are basic things to do. You first want to blanch or steam them and then plunge in cold water. Keep reading below about why this is necessary and for step-by-step directions.

When planning to freeze snow peas, it's best to dedicate uninterrupted time. They don't take long depending on how much and how often you pick but it's better if you store peas immediately to retain nutrients and flavor. Peas are like corn, the sugars convert to starch after harvesting so preserve right away. To be efficient, you should have all of your tools ready before you begin. Blanching or steaming inactivates enzymes that cause odors, off-colors, flavors and textures when vegetables are frozen. Blanching or steaming will also lock in freshness, color and retain vitamins. Some vegetables such as green beans contain more vitamin C when frozen. For more information about freezing food visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  

Frozen won't be the same as fresh picked but you still get to eat healthy veggies from the garden (remember all your hard work!) rather than buying them at the store. Steaming works well for me regarding texture instead of blanching plus less nutrients leach out into the water. It seems like there are many steps for freezing peas but it's really easy. 

Preserving Peas
1. Harvest the snow peas, pick the best ones without blemish. If they're too large, shell them and eat the peas inside the pods. 
2. Remove the strings from both sides on each of the peas. This is the most mundane task but be patient, it takes a while but worth doing. The strings are uncomfortable to eat, they can get stuck in your throat or teeth. It's hard to take off the strings from tiny peas, don't worry about it because they're softer. I just trim the ends and move on.        
3. Wash the peas thoroughly in a colander. Prepare a bowl of water with ice. The size of the bowl depends on how much peas you have. You can reuse this water 5 times. In the meantime, if you're steaming have an inch of water boiling in a pot on the stove. I use my 6 inch double bamboo steamer baskets on top and they're perfect for my small family. Any steamer will work. I like to preserve in batches, a big handful of peas per bag. It's not  overwhelming when I only have 2 to 4 bags to freeze. Soon enough, you'll have a stash in the freezer!   
4. If you're blanching the peas, put enough water to boil in a pot to cover them.
5. As soon as the water is rapidly boiling, blanch for 2 minutes or steam for 3 minutes and begin timing. A timer comes in handy. Add another 30 seconds if you live in high-altitude for every 2,000 feet above sea level. I steam for 2-1/2 minutes because I preserve small portions at a time. When it's done the peas will turn a lovely bright green.
6. Remove the peas from the heat. I use potholders to handle my steamer baskets, be careful they're hot. Immediately plunge the peas in ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Use a slotted spoon to stir them a bit and make sure they're completely covered in water. Keep the peas there for the same length of time you blanched or steamed. I set the timer again for 2-1/2 minutes. Remove the peas from ice water and drain well in the colander.
7. Place the peas on top of clean kitchen towels or you can use paper towels. I try to spread them apart without overlapping so they'll dry better and faster. Gently pat the peas dry with the towels and cover them. Wait several minutes until the peas are dry before putting them in bags. I prefer to store the peas this way so they don't form ice crystals as much in the freezer. Keep in mind this is my method, do what will work for you.  

You can store peas in freezer bags but try to remove the air after you close them or use a vacuum sealer. We have the FoodSaver® and it was a nice Christmas present we received. The machine is perfect for storing food and minimizing freezer burn. The bags are compact to save freezer space, this is a neat gadget. Be sure to label each bags with the name and date. I like to note the variety. Keep vegetables in the freezer at zero degrees (0°) for 12-18 months. The peas won't go bad in a year but the quality probably won't be the best. I assume flavor and texture will start to deteriorate after 1 year.

If you're preserving shelling peas, wait for the peas to get plump before picking. But don't wait too long or they'll get tough and won't be edible. Peas are ready when they're fat and swollen like the photo above. To freeze, follow the same directions starting with step 3 but of course remove them from the pods after you wash them. It's a tedious thing to do but sweet peas from the garden are the best. I actually sat down on the couch shelling peas while watching TV! Blanch the peas for 2-1/2 minutes or steam for 3 minutes. Add another 30 seconds if you live in high-altitude for every 2,000 feet above sea level. 

I also like to pat the shelling peas dry with towels before storing them. I grew them in containers and I regret not planting a lot. All we got were 2 small freezer bags and I already used up one bag! I skipped the vacuum sealer since I figured we'll be eating the peas quickly. I've added them to fried rice, soups, noodles and omelettes. My toddler likes peas and that makes mommy happy.

The book I have is an excellent reference and I ordered it used on Amazon Preserving Summer's Bounty. I love reading, I have a library of gardening and recipe books!     

Here's another variety of edible podded peas, Golden Sweet Pea from Seed Savers Exchange ®. The color is a bright lemon-yellow and it was sweet. I didn't grow that many because I ran out of room and I was only trying out this variety. I didn't harvest much of them and it's due to not planting enough. They were also next to the giant Taiwan Sugar snow peas therefore the plants didn't get enough sun.
   
Orange chicken with Golden Sweet Pea and Taiwan Sugar snow peas. I like how they both look here and the dish was tasty! Did you grow peas this past spring? What are your favorite recipes with peas?      

5 comments:

  1. Interesting! So informative! I have never known about it before. I usually use fresh product from my home garden, cause I can grow it all year round. I think I could try it to preserve my excess yields. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. Endah Murniyati, how lucky you can grow all year round! With our climate, it's best to preserve spring and summer crops for the winter. It's a great idea when you have a prolific harvest. I plan on canning, freezing and drying food. Every vegetables vary on the amount of time with blanching or steaming. Check out this page for reference http://www.pickyourown.org/blanching_why_and_how.php

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  3. I have never thought of preserving the fresh garden peas...thanks for sharing all the tips...very helpful!

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  4. What gorgeous fresh peas! If I'm ever lucky enough to have a big garden, I know just where to come for tips and tricks. :) Have a great weekend!

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  5. Hi Priscilla,
    Wow, lovely harvest from your beautiful plants!
    We usually do not freeze any produce, as we do not have winter over here, it's all hot and tropical here. And I am so envious of your beautiful peas. I thought of starting with some pea growing too, in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for sharing everything, from the lovely photos to the tips on freezing. I love reading about canning, freezing and preserving. Have a great week!

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I'm glad you stopped by. I love reading your comments and thank you for taking the time. Have a wonderful day! :-)

♥ Priscilla