Legume of the month: Peas

When you were a kid, you may have lumped peas into the same category as broccoli, spinach, or any other green plant on the plate. But green peas aren't the same as leafy greens. In fact, their classification is a little tricky.

Mature green peas — typically sold dried and split in half — are more like beans. But fresh or frozen green peas are classified as a starchy vegetable by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

No matter how you roll them, peas are dense little packages of carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals (especially iron, potassium, and vitamins A and K). A half-cup of cooked green peas contains 4 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, 12 grams of carbohydrate, and 641 International Units of vitamin A.

Green peas come in many varieties, including garden peas (with inedible pods), snow peas (with edible pods that are often used in stir-fry dishes), and snap peas (with thick, edible pods that can be eaten whole, raw or cooked).

Enjoy peas alone, as a side dish, or added into soups, stews, or salads. Or use dried split peas as the main ingredient in a hearty soup. You can even bake green peas (basted with a little olive oil) on a cookie sheet for a crunchy, healthy snack.

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