If you’re looking for a tasty vegetable side dish, then the English pea is by far the best pick. The difference between English peas and sweet peas?A sweet pea (the common diminutive that grandmothers everywhere love to use) is technically a flowering plant with beautiful pink and purple flowers. The sweet pea isn’t a pea at all—in fact, the seeds of the sweet pea plant are toxic and not edible. Regular, garden-variety peas are sometimes informally called sweet peas, so that is where the confusion stems from.
English peas are actually just a variety of garden pea that are commonly grown and are known for their sweet flavor and bright, beautiful green color. They need to be shucked before eating and a pound of pea pods is about the equivalent of 1 to 1.5 cups of shelled peas. When they’re fresh, they’re delicious eaten raw, or you can blanch them or even puree them. English peas are a great way to add some color to your favorite dishes, and they’re also easy to find in the frozen foods aisle of your grocery store.
Check out these 7 recipes featuring peas (English peas if you’ve got ’em!), and get started on enjoying the vibrant flavors of spring and summer.
1. Bacon, Peas, and Fennel Salad
With almost two cups of English peas that are cooked in bacon grease, this salad is a perfect mix of healthy and decadent. Two fried eggs and a bulb of fennel top it off, with a dressing of red wine vinegar, mustard, and olive oil. Get the recipe.
2. Potato Salad with Peas and Mint
This potato salad is a great way to stray from the mayo-based picnic classic. Shallots, chopped fresh mint, and fresh peas add color and flavor. Make it ahead so you can serve it at room temperature. Get our Potato Salad with Peas and Mint recipe.
3. Summer Farmer’s Market Salad with Fava Beans
Fava beans pair perfectly with fresh English peas for a green salad that is flavored with mint, lemon, and breakfast radishes. Get the recipe.
4. Pasta Carbonara with Peas
This is a classic pasta carbonara recipe with linguine, pancetta, Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, loads of freshly ground black pepper, and a cup of fresh peas. Make sure to keep the pasta water so you can thin out the carbonara sauce. Get our Pasta Carbonara with Peas recipe.
5. English Pea Pesto with Preserved Lemons
Peas are an incredible substitute for basil in a pesto recipe. Pine nuts, fresh mint, blanched English peas, Meyer lemon zest, and ample salt and pepper are the perfect match for pasta, and the preserved lemon puree adds an unexpected touch. Get the recipe.
6. Fava Bean and English Pea Salad with Feta and Mint
When you’re looking for a fast side dish that is packed with color, this “salad”—don’t worry, it doesn’t contain any leaves—is a great pick. Fava beans and English peas are paired with olive oil, lemon zest, mint, and feta. Get the recipe.
7. Pea and Prosciutto Salad
When in doubt, always pair peas with any kind of ham—prosciutto is no exception. Arugula, fresh shelled sugar snap peas, prosciutto, and horseradish are lightly dressed in a mixture of olive oil, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice for a crisp summer salad. Get the recipe.