We’re heavy into pea season in the Northeast right now, which is one of my favorite times of the year. Sure, you can buy peas frozen or canned or somewhat fresh year-round. But there’s something to be said for eating freshly-picked produce at the height of its season.
There are three popular kinds of peas on the market today: snow peas, sugar snap peas, and garden (or shell or English) peas. Here’s a brief overview of each kind of pea and some recipe ideas for getting them out of the grocery store and onto your table.
Snow peas are thin pea pods that are missing the peas inside (the pods are harvested before the peas grow). The entire pod is edible, so just pick ’em and eat ’em. Occasionally referred to as Chinese pea pods, these peas are often found in Asian stir fries. They’re less sweet than their snap pea counterparts, but deliciously crunchy when fresh. Don’t leave them languishing in the fridge (or on the counter) too long, though, as they lose their snap quickly.
Steamed and sauteed snow peas with an extra kick from some scallions. A nice twist on the traditional steamed or fried preparation.
A more typical stir-fry recipe, with lots of fresh ginger and some tasty shrimp to add bulk.
A mild coconut curry with chicken and cilantro, and an added green crunch from fresh snow peas.
Sugar Snap Peas
Like snow peas, sugar snaps have edible pods, but the peas within sugar snaps are much more plump, as they’ve been allowed to almost reach maturity. Varieties of snap peas have been around since the 1900s, but they didn’t become popular until the 1970s, when Dr. Calvin Lamborn successfully crossed snow peas with garden peas and created the first official Sugarsnap variety of pea, which is sweeter than snow peas and have much more substance, thanks to the larger size of the peas inside. Today, there are more than 30 varieties of sugar snap peas on the market, each with varying degrees of sweetness and edible pods.
A very traditional method of preparing sugar snaps – a light saute in olive oil with a hefty sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper. Who says traditional isn’t delicious?
A cold salad that uses both snap peas and their pea leaves, this is a refreshing summer dish that really celebrates the pea season.
Another salad — this time with rainbow colors — that’s crunchy and delicious. It has a bit more substance than the salad above thanks to the addition of quinoa and pepitas.
Growing up, these were the peas I ate, and these are still the peas I love more than any others. Plump pods filled with sweet, succulent tiny green morsels of goodness. You have to work for your supper, no free ride here. Crack a pod open to get at 2 or 5 or 9 peas, throw the pod away and do it again. The original garden pea (or English pea) is elusive on grocery store shelves these days; sugar snaps have taken over as they require much less work to prep and eat. Garden peas can usually still be found for a week or two when they’re in season, though. So if you haven’t found them yet, keep looking, because they’re worth every bite.
Honestly? No recipe needed here. Just shell ’em and eat ’em, and make sure to savor each sweet, fresh bite.