Storing Garden Peas
One of the major differences in the garden this season from last is that spring was actually more like a real spring, and not early summer. Last year in mid April it seemed like a switch was flipped and the temperatures never went below 30 degrees. This year spring has been much more temperate.
One of the side effects of this weather difference is that the cooler weather crops are actually producing for me instead of being overwhelmed by the heat. Things are wrapping up for me here - we're heading into the really hot zone that makes things like tomatoes and corn thrive (yay!), but if you are in a cooler region than me you might still be getting peas and wondering what to do with them.
One of the difficulties with peas is that you have to constantly pick them. Every other day at minimum, and sometimes more frequently than that! At the height of production I've gone out twice in one day and come back with decent (for my garden size) hauls each time. Now I love peas, but I don't always want to eat them with each meal. The other problem is that I don't always get enough peas from each harvest to feed both Mr. Forager and myself, but I have to pick them at their peak or they become dry and starchy later.
What to do?
Well, let me tell you it is very easy to prep peas for freezing, and just because you only get tiny amounts at a time doesn't mean you can't think of long term freezer storage for your garden peas.
Step one is to find a lovely relaxing place and shell some peas. I have fond memories of shelling enormous amounts of field peas at my Great Grandmother's farm. The whole family gathered around and we shelled so many our thumbs were aching!
Once you have your peas, blanch them in boiling water for 90 seconds, strain them out and immediately dump them in ice water to stop the cooking process. The reason you want to do this step is that there is an enzyme in peas that causes them to degrade over time in freezer storage. When you blanch them you destroy the enzyme and help them last longer.
After that strain them out of the ice water and let them dry off on a tea towel for a little bit. When they are no longer dripping wet spread them out on a cookie sheet and stick that in the freezer. The reason for this step is that you don't want them to freeze all in one clump. This way when you put them in a larger container they don't stick together as much. After they have frozen in a single layer like that you can put them in a jar or bag.
I have mine in a pint jar, and each time I get a pea harvest that we don't want to eat right away I go through this process and add more each time. It doesn't take long for it to add up! I won't have a huge amount of peas saved this way - my small garden will never keep us entirely self sufficient - but at least this way I can extend my harvest even a small amount and have some of my own peas preserved at their peak flavour when the harvest is finished.