It was one of those inexplicable cravings that seize you and hold you hostage to its relentless discomfort until satisfied. This time I am referring to sweet garden peas, bright green and alluring carrying an allegory of spring, where in reality its just perennial sweaty weather in Singapore. Normally a culinary purist, I hang my pride and admit frozen peas are one of my go-to fast-food, a brief blanch in warm water and they are ready to go. These sentiments are passionately echoed by William Wallace Irwin, “There is nothing so innocent, so confiding in its expression, as the small green face of the freshly shelled spring pea… Fling him into the water and let him boil, and that’s that.”
There are a couple of ways to satisfy a pea craving: pea soup, mushy peas, pea pesto or hummus on crostini, pea risotto. The available ingredients in my godforsaken mid-week pantry limited the option to the former and eliminated any decision making required.
This raw, vegan pea soup uses bitter celery and tart granny apple juice as the base, and avocado for a creamy texture. Look at this ‘pea’-rfect combination of green ingredients – you know it’s going to be a winner for taste and health!
- 1 cup frozen or fresh garden peas, peeled if preferred
- 3 stalks celery (about ¾ cup juice)
- 1 green apple (about ½ cup juice)
- 2 small limes
- ¼ large ripe avocado
- Juice celery, apple and limes through a slow juicer.
- Transfer the juice to a blender and add in peas and avocado. Blend until smooth. For a chunky texture, set aside some peas, celery, apple and avocado, chop, and add to soup. Serve immediately.
Preparing this pea soup sparked a curious research into the latest trending health product, pea protein powder. Some pea-based protein powder brands you might be familiar with are VegaOne, Mercola Pure Pea Protein and Garden of Life. Below I summarise my research on what it is, the manufacturing process, nutritional highlights and environmental impact. Do read on if it interests you.
The Process of Manufacturing of Pea Protein Powder
Pea protein is the concentrated natural protein of yellow peas. Taken from the brochure of Roquette, a major producer and supplier of pea protein under the product name Nutralys, their process used for concentrating pea protein is water-based and chemical-free. Peas are cleaned and ground into flour, then hydrated and separated into three major components – starch, fiber and protein. The protein is coagulated and spray-dried to yield a product of 80-90% protein.
Nutritional Benefits of Pea Protein 1: High Quality and Quantity Protein
Containing 85 per cent protein, pea protein is richer in this muscle-building ingredient than other vegetable proteins. It has a good amino acid profile, in particular a good source of glutamine and arginine, and the essential branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) isoleucine, lysine and valine. BCAAs BCAAs serve as important fuel sources for skeletal muscle during metabolic stress. They also promote protein synthesis, suppress protein catabolism and serve as substrates for gluconeogenesis.
The benefits of pea protein can be tremendously enhanced when combined with complementary hyoallergenic cereal proteins such as rice, which is lysine-poor but rich in cysteine and methionine. This is the reason that when choosing a plant-based protein powder, it is recommended to opt for a blend, for example pea and rice, than a single source.
The Raw Ingredient: Peas Please!
You are likely most familiar with green garden peas. However, pea protein is not made from green peas but yellow peas, which are also known as split peas. These are the same spilt peas used for making spilt pea soup or Indian Dal. I am unable to find a satisfactory explanation as to why green peas are less commonly used and question how green pea protein fares in comparison to yellow peas.
Nutritional Benefits of Pea Protein 2: Allergy-friendly and Easily Digestible
Pea protein is suitable for almost everyone as it is free from lactose, gluten, soy and caesin – the major food allergens. As a plant-based product, it is also agreeable with vegans. When combined with complementary grains (wheat or rice), the digestibility of pea protein has a PDCAAS score of 0.87, on par with that of meat. PDCAAS stands for protein-digestibility corrected amino acid score and is the official method recognised by the FAO/WHO. Highly digestible proteins are a good indicator of the bioavailability of amino acids.
From personal experience, pea protein has a mild, pleasantly sweet taste. It is one of the more universally acceptable protein, than say compared to hemp protein which needs taste buds acquired to greens.
The price varies according to brand.
You may be appeased that plant protein production leaves a significantly smaller carbon footprint compared to animal protein production. It requires seven times less land, water and energy, which makes it a more sustainable (and cruelty-free) product. Furthermore, legumes such as peas are well-known “nitrogen-fixing” plants that replenish natural soil nitrogen as they grow, improving the soil in the process. Overall peas are a low energy magical crop, being healthy to grow as they are to eat, a “green” story to tell.
Furthermore, production of GM crops (excpet maize) are not approved by the European Union, so rest assured that pea protein is free from the concerns about genetically modified foods.
Pea Cuisine: Complementary Pairing of Peas
From a nutritional perspective, pea protein is recommended to be combined with foods high in vitamin C-rich to enhance iron absorption. Pea and mint is a traditional flavor pairing I have come across in many springtime recipes. For a cooked pea soup, I have bookmarked this easy one over at Tori Avey.
References for further reading
Roquette Food. How supplements are made: an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at sports nutrition products. Online brochure.