Happy New Year Fresh City folks!
I am a big fan of all legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc), but I have to admit that my favourite to eat would be the sweetest of the Fabaceae plant family – the pea. I know not everyone would agree, those frozen ones that are so easily overcooked are not great – what I am talking about are the fresh, crisp, bright green raw ones. All peas grow inside of pods, and we typically eat just the unripe "fruit" inside the pod; some of which are edible and some not. Snow peas are contained within a thin fibrous pod, composed of carbohydrates that we can readily digest- and this makes them an easy veggie to prepare, cook and snack on. The French call snow peas (and close relative snap peas) "mangetout", which literally means "eat all".
Snow peas really do make a great snack, they are really quite balanced in protein and carb/fibre content. About 1 cup of raw peas will give you 8-10 grams of protein and the same in fibre! This means as a snack, snow peas really help to give you nutrients and energy; the fibre and protein combined really help to maintain stable blood sugar levels. I would say they make a great addition to lunch or a mid-afternoon snack, when you are most likely to experience a dip in sugar levels and thus your energy.
Snow peas are a good plant source of fatty acids as well – specifically alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), which is converted into various omega-3’s in the body. In addition, the fatty acid content in peas increases the absorbability of other nutrients they contain; namely the fat soluble vitamins E and beta-carotene.
The pea family of plants in general are a super sustainable crop; and one that will benefit the whole vegetable garden. Firstly, pea plants host certain types of bacteria that are called "nitrogen-fixing", this means that they are capable of utilizing nitrogen from the air and converting it into usable forms of fuel in the soil. Sowing pea plants along-side other crops, particularly green leafy plants which require relatively more nitrogen, improves crop growth and reduces the need for nitrogen-containing pesticides. Pretty cool! Pea plants also have shallow root systems which limit soil erosion, they are crop that can easily be rotated throughout the growing season.
Enjoy your snow peas; they make me think spring….which maybe is not that far around the corner!
Bronwyn Hill, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor & food lover. She is currently in practice in Toronto's Forest Hill Neighbourhood, at Mahaya Forest Hill Integrative Health. She specializes in using food as medicine, acupuncture & traditional chinese medicine & botanicals; and has particular experience treating digestive concerns, women's health concerns including menopause, stress management, insomnia, healthy detoxification, and chronic respiratory conditions including asthma. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow her on Twitter @drbronwynnd.