You can't beat Mother Nature, so why not join her? She's given the plant world a tender, delicate green color synonymous with spring. You can put that color on your dining table this season with a delicate, delicious pea soup.

Green peas are at their peak in March, April and May (and then again in the summer), so this is just the time of year to celebrate the new crop.

If you can't get or don't want to bother with fresh peas, the frozen ones work well. If using fresh peas, choose those with plump, unblemished bright green pods. Inside the pods, the peas should have a glossy sheen, and taste crunchy and sweet. Refrigerate them in their pods for up to three days. Shell just before using.

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans should cover two-thirds (or more) of the plate. Animal-based foods should cover one-third (or less). A first-course pea soup would be a perfect way to begin such a meal, and help you get the minimum "Five-A-Day" servings of vegetables and fruit recommended for optimum health.

Peas are not only a good part of a plant-based diet, they are a source of dietary fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, zinc and vitamin C. And, like many vegetables, peas have cancer-fighting properties.

For, example, peas contain lutein, a member of the carotenoid family that includes beta-carotene, lycopene and several other health-protective phytochemicals. Lutein may be an important aid in fighting cancer.

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The most concentrated sources of easily absorbed lutein are dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, collard greens and chard. Less concentrated but still good sources are red peppers, green peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, dark green lettuce like romaine, yellow corn and zucchini. Egg yolks are also a good source. Studies show that even the less concentrated sources of lutein can be helpful.

This delicious, sweet soup offers not only great nutrition but the delicate colors and flavors of spring that are so welcome after a long, hard winter.

Spring Pea Soup

Yield: Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion (such as Vidalia) finely chopped
  • 1 boiling potato (about 4 ounces) peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3-1/2 cups water
  • 1 lb. frozen baby peas, thawed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. low-fat sour cream (optional)
  • Fresh mint leaves, minced (optional)
  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add potato and salt and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes. Add water, cover and simmer until potato is tender, about 15 minutes. Add peas and simmer, uncovered, 2 minutes.
  2. Cool slightly, then puree in small batches in a blender. Force mixture through a very fine mesh sieve into a saucepan. Reheat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Top each serving with a dab of sour cream and fresh mint leaves.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
86 calories, 1 g. total fat (<1 g. saturated fat), 15 g. carbohydrate, 4 g. protein, 4 g. dietary fiber, 280 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Low-Fat Meat, 1 Vegetable, 1 Low-Fat Milk


AICR