Creamed Sweet Peas and Bits of Trivia with My Stories

I really can’t remember a Sunday dinner meal when I was growing up without creamed sweet peas especially during the summer months. It was truly a farm to table dish because the peas were picked from my parent’s very large garden that morning and served at the noon meal. Fresh creamed sweet peas have a delicious flavor that can’t be described. You have to shell and cook some yourself to get the idea. When I found sweet peas at the Shenandoah Valley farmers market in June, I had to purchase some to cook.

Creamed Sweet Peas, Healthy?

In addition to being freshly picked, I have memories from childhood that the creamed pea recipe was made by “creaming” the peas with heavy cream along with a little flour for thickening. Where did the cream come from? My parents purchased milk directly from a local farmer. The milk It was not homogenized (like milk you purchase in grocery stores) and the heavy cream separated to the top of the milk jug. This cream was used in cooking in a variety of dishes.

Bits of Trivia, Cholesterol and Summer Job at National Institutes of Health in Maryland

Many years ago, no one was concerned about cholesterol or saturated fats. Who even knew what their cholesterol “number” or blood level was? And so we ate alot of cream, butter, eggs and fried foods. Over the years, that has changed!

As a little trivia, while in college, I spent one summer as a “normal volunteer” (or human guinea pig) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. We were paid $9.00 a day plus meals and lodging in a hospital room! I believe that I received an experimental flu vaccine. Perhaps that’s why I never get the flu??

The most popular volunteer was a college student who had driven from California to the Washington, D.C. area and the NIH research facilities. He stopped in Colorado on the way and picked up a trunk load of Coors beer. Back in those days, Coors beer was only brewed in Colorado. Since it needed to be refrigerated, it was sold only in the Western sates. Somehow, this guy managed to keep the beer iced down in the trunk of his car almost all summer. This beer was a rare and popular commodity. I learned to appreciate good quality beer from this experience and still rate Coors beer as my favorite beer.

Back to cholesterol, the NIH maintained a large binder of all the research labs that a person could work in when they weren’t serving as a “human normal volunteer.” I randomly selected a lab in the Metabolic Unit with a group of researchers studying lipids. These scientists pioneered in categorizing five types of hyperlipidemia which became the basis for everything we now know about measuring and categorizing cholesterol and triglycerides. Another scientist was conducting the initial research on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. Knowing my interest in nutrition, my researcher invited me to sit in on some of the meetings planning the protocol of human study of the effectiveness of statin drugs. Little did I know what important contributions these NIH researchers would make which literally has changed the health of millions of people and how we treat cholesterol. Looking backwards, just a summer job became an interesting witness to history.

Family History

My mother was raised on an Iowa farm where the family keep a dairy herd. The family sold the milk to a nearby Waterloo creamy. Heavy cream and home-churned butter was a staple in their meals. I often wondered if that contributed to some of the elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels that my mother and other family members had. All lived to their 80’s or longer, none were overweight and exercise was the norm on a farm. But three of the siblings suffered heart attacks along the way and the fourth had coronary bypass surgery. No one knew of the effects of a high-saturated diet in the 1920’s so you can’t blame them. Diet or genes? Who knows.

Use some common sense

But we have learned alot since those days regarding the effects of diet and cardiovascular health. And you don’t really have to know your cholesterol number to have common sense. Here’s to a healthier diet.

The Iowa farm still exists. Here is the well house with the deep well which provided water for the farm. I remember drinking fresh, cold water straight from the well. Soothing and refreshing on a hot August day. It is a memory from visits to my grandparent’s farm in Iowa.

Creamed Sweet Pea Recipe

I was determined to duplicate the Creamed Sweet Pea recipe — only with much less fat. I am pleased with the results.

Rather than heavy cream, I made a “white sauce” or “white roux” with milk in place of the cream. A person could use either skim, low-fat or whole milk. The flavor of the peas is predominant and that’s the important flavor in the recipe rather than the cream. I did add just a pinch of black pepper and onion salt for good measure.

The white sauce is made by blending margarine and flour, then adding the milk and cooking to thicken. Season with salt, onion salt and pepper. It should be a very thin white sauce, so you need just a little margarine and flour.

Add the blanched peas.  That’s the recipe. It makes an interesting variation to serving plain boiled peas and is much lower in fat than most Creamed Pea recipes. It is a way to get more vegetables in meals.

No fresh peas?

The season for farm fresh sweet peas is only several weeks and the time of year varies based on the climate and where you live — spring or early summer. Luckily, frozen peas are very similar to freshly picked ones in flavor. If you can’t find fresh peas at a farmers market, then substituting frozen ones in the recipe works well, too.

I love fresh sweet peas and this simple way to enjoy them.

Enjoy the recipe.

Creamed Sweet Peas

  • Servings: 4 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

    • 2 cup shelled, fresh peas (approx. 2 lb in shell) or 12 oz to 16 oz frozen package of peas
    • 1 Tbsp margarine
    • 1 Tbsp flour
    • 2/3 cup milk (skim, low fat or whole)
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp onion salt
    • dash black pepper

Method and Steps:

  1. Add peas to about 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil in a medium pot of stove. Cover, reduce heat and cook until tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, make white sauce. Melt margarine in small heavy pot on stove over medium heat. Add flour and stir for a minute.
  3. Remove from stove. Add several tablespoons of milk. With a wooden spoon, stir until the milk is combined with the flour and there are no clumps of flour. Add several more tablespoons of milk and stir. Then add the remainder of the milk.
  4. Add the salt, onion salt and a dash of black pepper.
  5. Return to stove. Over medium heat, cook and stir constantly until the white sauce  thickens and just begins to boil.
  6. Remove from heat.
  7. Drain peas and add to serving bowl. Stir in white sauce.

My grandparent’s Iowa farm. The farm dates from 1920’s. It is still here.

2 thoughts on “Creamed Sweet Peas and Bits of Trivia with My Stories

  1. Thank you for such a wonder story and the beautiful pictures of your grandparents farm. I love fresh peas and had forgotten about creamed sweet peas. I love visiting farmers markets and will keep a look out next year for fresh peas. I remember my Mom telling stories about eating fresh peas out of the garden and eating them raw from the shells. She would say there is nothing better than shelling fresh peas and eating them raw.

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    • Yes, shelling peas on our backyard porch or “stoop” brings back many fond memories. Seems like everyone in that rural part of the country had gardens — not so much any longer. Fresh sweet peas are the best; hope you find some next spring and enjoy them! Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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