The first harvest of sugar snap peas has started to emerge and will become increasingly available over the coming months.
Developed from crossing the English pea with the snow pea, a sugar snap pea tends to offer the best qualities of both rolled into one.
Snow peas are sought for the culinary convenience of a crisp edible pod. But the peas inside the snow pea pod are quite small and often indistinguishable from the texture and flavor of the pod itself.
The English pea, however, is just the opposite. The pod of the English pea can be quite fibrous and is usually composted rather than eaten. The peas inside the English pea, however, are large and sweet, making them the main highlight of this variety.
Put snow and English peas together, and you have a match made in heaven. With an edible pod and large, sweet peas, those sugar snap peas sure are delicious.
When selecting your sugar snap peas, choose those that possess a vibrant green color across its outer surface, which can range from a very light green to dark green. The peas should feel crisp and snap with ease when bent in half, a sign they were just harvested.
Peas may possess some scarring on their outer surface, sometimes caused from water marks, other times from intense sun exposure. Both do not tend to affect the quality of the peas when eating.
Once home, store your peas in a plastic bag or food storage bin and wash before eating. They will last for up to a couple of weeks if properly stored. Rinse your peas and dry them just before consumption.
Sugar snap peas are wonderful both raw and cooked. I eat them as a snack all the time, just as they come, straight out the refrigerator.
When cooking my sugar snap peas, I usually discard the very tips at both the top and base of the pea. Then they are sautéed at high heat in a little olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Simple and delicious. They are also great in a mixed vegetable stir fry, added to steamed or fried rice, or chopped raw over a mixed green salad.
This week, I decided to prepare a sugar snap pea salad with a simple Asian style dressing. Combined with some super sweet local carrots, Persian cucumbers, fresh herbs and green onions, this salad makes for a great side dish or very healthy main dish.
Sugar Snap Pea Salad
2 pounds sugar snap peas, strings removed, tips at base and top discarded, sliced into small rounds.
2 cups Napa Cabbage, chopped.
2 carrots, peeled and julienned.
2 Persian cucumbers, ends removed, sliced in half and then into thin slices.
2 green onions/scallions, chopped into small rounds at an angle.
One-half cup cilantro leaves, left whole.
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped.
One-quarter cup roasted peanuts of cashews, coarsely chopped.
Toss all ingredients together, except for the peanuts. Toss with about 2-3 tablespoons of the dressing. Season with salt and pepper as needed to taste. Add more dressing to taste. Top with peanuts and toss again.
Yield: Makes 4 side salads.
For the dressing:
One-quarter cup rice vinegar.
2 tablespoons sesame oil.
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated then well minced.
1 clove fresh garlic, well minced.
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce.
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce.
1 teaspoon honey.
Whisk together all dressing ingredients at room temperature. Let sit for 10 minutes, then mix well before serving.
Yield: Prepares about one-half cup dressing.