Frozen peas are available year round, but fresh garden peas are in season from early June until late July. Mangetout are undeveloped garden peas, picked while the pod is still edible. Similarly, petits pois are young garden peas that are picked and shelled when small, young and tender. Unlike mangetout pods, the pods of garden peas are too tough to eat, but popping fresh peas straight from the pod into your mouth remains one of life's great pleasures.
Select fresh peas with bright green pods that are firm and plump.
Peas don't need fussy preparation when they're in season. Boil them briefly until just tender, add a knob of butter and season with black pepper, perhaps crushing them lightly with a fork before serving alongside grilled fish fillets or slices of boiled ham hock. Alternatively, cook up a prawn risotto, stirring in the peas, a sprinkle of chopped fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon juice just before serving.
For picnics, prepare a cold pasta salad and add peas or mangetout, a crumbly, tangy cheese such as feta, chopped mint and plenty of olive oil. Or make a Spanish-style tortilla and add fresh peas and leftover vegetables. When the weather's hot, cool down with chilled pea soup, garnished with a swirl of cream.
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