There is nothing quite as good as the sweet flavor of fresh peas straight from the garden. You can enjoy that same fresh taste year round by freezing them after they have been harvested. To retain the fresh flavor and tenderness, peas should be processed as soon as possible after they have been picked. Generally, a fresh bean should pop from the pod by twisting. Peas that are slimy or limp are too old to freeze. They will be rubbery and tasteless. If it is not possible to process the peas immediately after picking them, shelled peas can be put into the refrigerator or kept on ice for a few days. Peas in the pod do not deteriorate as quickly and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Choosing the right peas also plays an important part in successful preparation. Pick out and discard any peas that are hard, slimy, or discolored. I find that the smaller the pea, the more tender and flavorful they are after freezing. Peas that are picked after maturity grow larger and have a tendency to become hard and bitter. Being choosy will yield much better results and tastier food.
Once peas have been shelled, wash them to remove any dirt or debris on them. This can easily be accomplished by using a colander. Place the peas into the colander and run cold water over them, gently stirring with your hands until they are clean.
The Blanching Process
Because peas are very high in natural sugar, they must be blanched before freezing. Blanching will prevent enzymes from turning the sugar into starch and spoiling the taste. Blanching is the process of heating them up quickly, which kills bacteria and stops enzyme production. This process also allows the peas to retain their color and nutrients. Peas that have been blanched can be frozen for 9 to 12 months before eating. Although it is not recommended, it is possible to freeze peas without blanching but they must be used within 4 weeks after freezing.
1. Fill a large pot with 1 gallon of water and bring to a rapid boil.
2.Place 1 pound of washed peas in a wire basket with handle and immerse basket in the boiling water and wait for the water to return to a boil.
3. Boil peas for 2 minutes.
4. Remove wire basket from the boiling water and immerse basket into a large container of water and ice for about 5 minutes. This will stop the cooking process.
5. Drain peas to remove as much moisture as possible.
6. Pack peas tightly into thick freezer bags or plastic freezing container. Remove as much air as possible.
7. Label each bag with the “type of pea” and “date of preparation”.
8. Freeze quickly to retain flavor and nutrients.
Besides being delicious, peas are an excellent source of nutrition. Nutrients found in a serving of peas include iron, fiber, calcium, protein, vitamins A and C, and digestive aids such as riboflavin.
If processed correctly, your peas will be hard to tell from fresh picked ones and their tender flavor can be enjoyed all winter.
If you need a helping hand while shelling your peas, I highly recommend the Taylor Bean Sheller machine. The Taylor Little Sheller can shell 3-4 bushels an hour. The Taylor Mini Sheller machine is about ⅔ the size of the Little Sheller, but is perfect for beginners or home gardens. You can also check out my review of the Taylor Little Sheller.