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Split peas look like lentils, but are they? Split peas are a member of the legume family, as are lentils. However, split peas are an actual field pea that is dried. Once dried, the outer skin of the pea is removed and the pea is split in half. Lentils, on the other hand, are the seeds found in the pods of a small annual plant.

Split peas come in green and yellow varieties. Green split peas are sweeter than the yellow variety. They are most commonly used in split pea soup. Due to their yellow color, yellow split peas are sometimes used to make Indian dal recipes. The word “dal” comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “to split.”

Store dried split peas in an airtight container for 2-3 years. Since the peas are split, they cook faster, and it eliminates the need to presoak. Simply sort and rinse before cooking. Simmer one cup of split peas in two cups of water for about 25 minutes. Split peas can also be cooked in a slow cooker. Add one cup of peas and two cups of water in the crock, and cook on low for 3-4 hours or on high for 2 hours. Besides split pea soup, use the peas to make hummus, a casserole or a warm vegetable salad. Split peas are high in protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium and iron. This healthy vegetarian option is also affordable. In fact, the average cost of split peas per serving is a mere 10 cents! Compared to the average cost of chicken breast, which is $1.06 per serving, split peas are an affordable, easy, delicious no-brainer option!

Split Pea Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3 carrots, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

2 cups dried split peas

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6 cups no-added-salt vegetable stock

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Heat oil in a large stockpot. Add onion, carrots and celery; cook until onions soften. Stir in the split peas vegetable stock, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until peas are soft and creamy, about 1-1/2 hours. If too thick, add water or broth. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 290 calories, 3 grams fat, 290 milligrams sodium, 51 grams carbohydrate, 20 grams fiber, 17 grams protein

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Smith is nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306. 

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