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Snow Peas

Pisum sativum var. saccharatum


Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand

Description

Fresh-tasting, sweet, and crunchy, snow peas have a delicate flavour and are an interesting alternative to ordinary peas.

Peas are legumes, coming in bright green pods that somewhat resemble beans. Snow peas, or mangetout, (French for ‘eat all’) are just an under-developed pea, with the pod being the main event rather than the seeds inside. Confusingly, you might also see sugar snap peas referred to as mangetout or snow peas, but as these are essentially the same, just plumper, you can treat them as the same vegetable.

Peas are rich in vitamins B6, C, and K, as well as folate, iron, and calcium. They’re also a good source of other essential minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and potassium.

When buying snow peas, look for velvety, smooth pods that are a vibrant green colour. Avoid any that are too dark, too light, or are yellowing. Fresh peas don’t keep well, so refrigerate them and eat as soon as possible.

When buying snow peas, look for velvety and smooth pods that are a vibrant green colour. Avoid any that are too dark or too light or are yellowing. Fresh peas don’t keep well, so refrigerate them and eat as soon as possible.

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History

Peas have been eaten for thousands of years; archaeological evidence that shows them to have been around in 3000BC and they were prized by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. They were once grown for their dry seeds, but as more tender varieties were cultivated from the 16th century, people began to eat them fresh, as we do today. In 17th and 18th century France, eating peas was said to be ‘a fashion and a madness’. Snow peas may have been developed in Holland around this time.

In China, peas have been eaten since 2000BC; it’s though that the Chinese were the first to consume both pea and pod, and snow peas still commonly make an appearance in Asia cuisine.

Peas have played an important role in science; the 19th century Austrian monk Gregor Mendel used peas in his cross-breeding experiments that have vastly added to our understanding of genetics.

Uses

Snow peas are particularly good in stir fries. Just add them towards the middle of cooking; you want them to be warmed through but still have some crunch. Their sweet flavour means that they go well with garlic and salty flavours, such as oyster sauce.

They’re also good lightly steamed with other green vegetables, such as beans and broccoli. Like other peas, mint complements their flavour nicely.

Snow peas are also great on a vegetable platter, with baba ghanoush or hummus as a dip.

Facts

The name ‘snow pea’ might have several origins: the white sheen on ripe pods, their tendency to grow at the end of winter, and the fact that this sometimes means they get covered in snow or frost, but carry on growing.



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