The north wind blows and your body asks for warmth and nourishment. It’s the perfect time for a satiating bowl of hearty split pea soup! I recall many winter days in my early childhood that I would come home from school to the wonderful aroma in my Oma’s kitchen of a steaming pot of split pea soup being readied for that night’s dinner. To this day, whenever I eat a warm bowl of this delicious goodness, the memories too of emotional warmth and nourishment are like a giant hug!
Split peas are a terrific source of protein and very low in fat ; a ½ cup cooked serving contains 8 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of total fat. A small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, split peas are also an excellent source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only can dried peas help lower cholesterol, their hearty fiber content can also prevent blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal and therefore leave you feeling satiated for a good long while as they provide steady, slow-burning energy.
Belonging to the same family as beans and lentils, split peas are a nutrient-dense food, which means they contain a large amount of nutrients but are low in calories. They are a good source of vitamins A and B, potassium and magnesium. Vitamin A supports immune health and is necessary for eyesight. The B vitamins assist red blood cell production and also help make energy from the food you eat. You need potassium to build muscle and to break down carbohydrates into energy. Magnesium is also necessary for energy production and to keep your teeth and bones healthy and strong.
Peas have been around longer than you may have suspected. Thought to have originated from the field pea that was native to central Asia and Europe, dried peas have been consumed since prehistoric times with fossilized remains being found at archeological sites in Swiss lake villages. They were prized by the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome and are even receive a mention in the Bible.
Dried peas were the main way that people consumed this legume for a long time and it wasn’t until the 16th century, when cultivation techniques created more tender varieties of garden peas, that people began to consume peas in their fresh state as well. A culture that has consumed this legume as far back as 2,000 BC, the Chinese were the first ones to consume both the seeds and the pods as a vegetable. And as to when we first saw them here in the US, peas were introduced to us soon after the colonists first settled in this country. And an interesting tidbit: in the 19th century during the early developments of the study of genetics, peas played an important role. The monk and botanist, Gregor Mendel used peas in his plant breeding experiments. Today the largest commercial producers of dried peas are Russia, France, China and Denmark.
1 small onion, ¼” dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil, or more as needed
1 red bell pepper, ¼” dice
3 cups peeled, ½”dice carrots
3 cups heirloom dried split peas
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and cut into ½” dice
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon thyme
1 parmesan rind, 1” x 2-3”
1 dried bay leaf
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2-3 quarts vegetable stock
Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot and, when sizzling, add the onions and cook until they just begin to brown, add red bell pepper and continue to sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic, stir. Add red bell pepper, stir and sauté for a few minutes more.
Add 1 cup stock and loosen any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add split peas, potatoes, spices and parmesan rind. Add stock until the vegetable mixture is covered by about an inch. Bring to a gentle boil. Turn down to a simmer.
Continue to simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking the need for more stock. The liquid will thicken slightly as the peas break down and the soup is ready when it’s reached your desired consistency. Enjoy!
Options for garnish:
Goat kefir drizzled over the top
Toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled over the top