Special Column
Pea pods are edible - pakoras for tea anyone ?

By Shanthini Rajkumar

Jan 25, 2019

If you have yet to relish the tender green peas that are in season, you’d better hurry before this winter vegetable is no longer at it’s best. Not many in the South of India are aware that peas are a winter vegetable. In Central and northern India however green pea season is celebrated with homes churning out their choicest of pattani delicacies.

At our home too we love our pattani poriyal this time of year, where the small tender green kernels are so sweet and soak up the small onion and green chillies juices and make for a lip smacking side to a rasam and rice lunch.

But this post isn’t only about the deliciousness of the green pea. There’s another ingredient that is not given much importance once the peas are shelled and that is the pea pod. I became aware quite a few years ago that the pea pod was edible. When in season,the outer pods are a bright green and cook easily.

Though I love the taste of the green pea skin, I never really experimented much with it. The only thing we made was a chutney. The pods were cooked until very tender and then sautéed with onions and maybe an occasional tomato before being blitzed to a smooth purée. But every once in a while this pea purée would need to be strained through a sieve and while I did wonder what was causing the coarseness, I never really bother to find out.

This time however when we brought home some fresh green peas I had a bit of time to do some experimenting. I searched the web to see if there was any specific techniques to clean the pea pods. The search taught me something that I had never heard before !

Did you know that the inside casing of the pea pod which houses the peas consists of a transparent, delicate membrane ? It’s quite amazing. It takes a bit of practice at first and involves pinching the end of the skin with thumb and forefinger of both hands on either side of the skin. As the fingers part the skin comes away in 2 layers, the outer green and the clear inner membrane which feels like tough plastic. Apparently, this is inedible and does not soften during the cooking process.

The moment we pulled apart the clear portion from inside, the outer skin became quite pliant and soft. The layer inside is what protects the seeds and is therefore water resistant. Nature truly never ceases to amaze us.

The process of removing the membrane is quite time consuming but at the same time strangely therapeutic. Once you get the hang of it,it’s really quite fun…. Almost like one were a kid with a brand new toy that sparks creativity!

So while the pile of cleaned pea pods grew, so did the excitement of what to make with this ‘new’ ingredient. All plans of a chutney were cast side and with the clock hands venturing towards 4 o ‘clock,a "pea pod tea time snack" seemed rather tempting.

The thought process was to keep the shape intact and make something crunchy so yes we did decide to shallow fry the pea pods which I must confess doesn’t happen often in our kitchen. So in went a little gram flour, salt, red chilli powder and just enough water to coat the pea skins. Heated as little nallennai as I possibly could and added the skins to the hot oil. Within minutes the flour coating crisped up to a golden brown while the green skins retained their vibrancy. It felt good to cook a part of the vegetable that one generally throws away.

Pea pods have their own nutritional benefits. As more chefs are beginning to discover with roots, peels, stalks and skins…nature intended for very little to go to waste. Apparently these green exteriors are rich in magnesium, iron and folate. They contain Vitamin K which is necessary for blood clotting. 10 pea pods are said to contain more than half the required amount of Vitamin A for both men and women according to Michelle Kerns. Here is the citation to read up further. "Nutrients of Pea Pods." Healthy Eating | SF Gate, http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/nutrients-pea-pods-7761.html. 17 December 2018.

The good news is that we can easily avail of these rich health benefits by visiting our neighbourhood grocer. Let’s make every meal count.Get your pea protein now when it really does make a difference.

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