Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Gregor Mendel Special: Peas! *stage 1*

Let's play the "shell game!"
“Peas, please!”  If babies could talk, that’s what they’d say.  I’ve never seen a baby who didn’t absolutely looooove his peas :)  Elias loves them, his cousin Solomon loved them, you get the idea.  The natural sweetness in peas makes them a great “first food” for babies.  Peas are best when they’re in season or picked fresh, but why?  The natural sugars in peas will start to convert to starch as soon as they’re picked.  It’s a defense mechanism developed by millions of years of evolution.  It’s really the only survival method a pea plant has!  Same goes for corn, apples, & other starchy-sweet eatables.  So if the sugar-to-starch conversion is supposed to keep animals from eating the peas, then why have we all been subjected to mushy, starchy peas since we were introduced to solid foods??  It’s tricky, but there are ways to prevent that for your little guy.

First of all baby food companies have done a lot better in the recent years to keep fruits & vegetables as fresh as possible by flash-cooking them at the peak of ripeness & packaging before vital nutrients are lost.  That means their peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, all will have a lovely, sweet, fresher taste.  You’d think I’d be dogging pre-made baby food, but in this case they do have the right idea.  Honestly, if I had to choose between old, out-of-season peas & Gerber, I’d use Gerber!  The only downside is that you can’t know the exact amount of time it has been on the shelves.  So choose fresh whenever possible with garden peas.  Yes, garden peas.  Snow peas & sugar peas aren’t recommended for baby food obviously.  Fresh is best, Gerber is second-best, frozen is third, & canned is the absolute last resort.  I wouldn’t feed my son canned peas unless we had no food whatsoever.  As Raymond Sokolov (Of How To Cook fame) so eloquently put it,

 “…let’s agree that canned peas are repulsive and fit
        only for survival cooking during a nuclear winter…”

Nutrition Perks: In 2 oz (¼ cup) of peas there are approximately 170mg of potassium, which makes them a good source of this nutrient.  As mentioned before, an infant needs 500-700mg of potassium every day.  They are also a good source of vitamin A and are less calorie-dense than most vegetables.  Nearly all of the calories in peas are from carbohydrates.  There is a trace amount of fat in peas.

Peas on Earth, good will towards men.
To make a couple of servings of peas for baby, buy about ½ a pound to 1 pound of unshelled peas.  If you’re taking them from a garden, it’s highly doubtful you’re going to be taking a hanging scale with you so you’ll harvest about 2 to 2-½ cups.  Here’s how to turn those lovely peas-ers into baby mush:

½ pound to 1 pound of unshelled peas
2 quarts boiling water

1.       Shell peas into a bowl & dump into water at a rolling boil all at once.  Boil for 5-7 minutes.  Drain & reserve some of the “pea-water “ (ha) to use while processing.  The reserved water will retain some nutrients from the peas :)
2.       Put peas in the processor & pulse until a paste is formed.  Add water a couple of tablespoons at a time until you reach the desired consistency.  If skins appear to not process, press through a sieve to make the puree extra smooth.  Ta-da!

Final thoughts?  Gregor is a weird name.  Annnnnnd all we are saying is give peas a chance :) *rimshot*

-Elias’s mommy

Sources: How To Cook book by Raymond Sokolov, 1986; (Gregor Mendel article); (Peas nutrition facts)

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