SUGGESTIONS FOR COOKING.—The legumes are best cooked by stewing or boiling, and when mature, require prolonged cooking to render them tender and digestible. Slow cooking, when practicable, is preferable. Dry beans and peas are more readily softened by cooking if first soaked for a time in cold water. The soaking also has a tendency to loosen the skins, so that when boiled or stewed, a considerable portion of them slip off whole, and being lighter, rise to the top during the cooking, and can be removed with a spoon; it likewise aids in removing the strong flavor characteristic of these foods, which is considered objectionable by some persons. The length of time required for soaking will depend upon the age of the seed, those from the last harvest needing only a few hours, while such as have been kept for two or more years require to be soaked twelve or twenty-four hours. For cooking, soft water is best. The mineral elements in hard water have a tendency to harden the casein, of which the legumes a largely composed, thus rendering it often very difficult to soften them.
The dry, unsoaked legumes are generally best put to cook in cold water, and after the boiling point is reached, allowed to simmer gently until done. Boiling water may be used for legumes which have been previously soaked. The amount of water required will vary somewhat with the heat employed and the age and condition of the legume, as will also the time required for cooking, but as a general rule two quarts of soft water for one pint of seeds will be quite sufficient. Salt should not be added until the seeds are nearly done, as it hinders the cooking process.
DESCRIPTION.—The common garden pea is probably a native of countries bordering on the Black Sea. A variety known as the gray pea (pois chiche) has been used since a very remote period. The common people of Greece and Rome, in ancient times made it an ordinary article of diet. It is said that peas were considered such a delicacy by the Romans that those who coveted public favor distributed them gratuitously to the people in order to buy votes.
Peas were introduced into England from Holland in the time of Elizabeth, and were then considered a great delicacy. History tells us that when the queen was released from her confinement in the tower, May 19, 1554, she went to Staining to perform her devotions in the church of Allhallows, after which she dined at a neighboring inn upon a meal of which the principal dish was boiled peas. A dinner of the same kind, commemorative of the event, was for a long time given annually at the same tavern.
Peas, when young, are tender and sweet, containing a considerable quantity of sugar. The nitrogenous matter entering into their composition, although less in quantity when unripe, is much more easily digested than when the seeds are mature.
When quite ripe, like other leguminous seeds, they require long cooking. When very old, no amount of boiling will soften them. When green, peas are usually cooked and served as a vegetable; in their dried state, they are put to almost every variety of use in the different countries where they are cultivated.