The great joy of spring peas is their fresh taste and that they go so well with other spring foods such as lamb and shad. If you grow your own you can harvest them when they are really young, tender, and sweet, best for the following recipe.
Make this soup when the peas are just beginning to mature and are not much bigger than very small beads. The flavor is truly spring-like and, since you can use the pea pods too, there is no waste.
The secret of harvesting peas is to do the job regularly, every day if possible, and to pick from the bottom of the plant upwards. Once all peas have been picked, the vines can be hoed into back into the ground providing valuable material for the soil.
This recipe comes from ''Cooking With Vegetables,'' by Marika Hanbury Tenison (Jonathan Cape, London, $16.95). Soup of Young Pea Pods 1 pound fresh, small, peas, unshelled 1/2 ounce butter 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil 1 medium onion, peeled,chopped 3 new potatoes, peeled, roughly chopped 2 celery stalks, with leaves, roughly chopped Small bunch parsley 2 sprigs mint 2 1/2 pints chicken stock Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
Heat butter and oil together in large heavy saucepan. Add onion and cook over low heat, stirring, until soft and transparent.
Add potatoes, celery, pea pods, parsley and mint sprigs, and stock. Season with salt and pepper, bring to boil, cover and cook over medium high heat about 45 minutes until pea pods are very tender.
Puree soup in a food mill or food processor into a clean saucepan. Bring back to boil, add shelled peas and cook 5 minutes. The peas should be slightly crunchy. Add chopped mint just before serving. Serves 4.