Sugar snap, snow peas, shelled -- try them all

Peas are not just plain peas anymore. There are several kinds in most markets today, and with a bit of hunting around you may be able to try them all. In addition to the usual green garden variety, sometimes called English peas, watch for sugar snap peas and snow peas. These bright green ones with edible pods are crisp, flavorful, and easy to prepare and enjoy.

The sugar or snow pea is called the mangetout, meaning ''eat everything,'' in French. It is also popular in Chinese cooking and is easily found in Chinese markets.

The young tender pods, which are very flat, are eaten before the peas begin to develop. If the peas are allowed to ripen, the pods become as inedible as in other varieties.

Sugar snap peas are somewhat like a snow pea but with plump, juicy kernels as well as an edible pod. They have some of the characteristics of a snap green bean and should be eaten pod and all.

When purchasing peas of any kind, choose those that are young and of good quality. Keep them cool and humid in the refrigerator. Don't buy dry, wilted, or scanty pods.

Recently a reader asked if it would be good to stir-fry snow peas with fresh mint, both available from her garden. Since mint loses flavor from long cooking and high heat, the following seems a better and easy way of combining the two. Snow Peas With Mint 1 1/2 pounds snow peas 1 tablespoon butter 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sugar Salt to taste Freshly ground pepper 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh mint

In saucepan bring about 1/2 cup water to boil and cook peas gently from 3 to 5 minutes, until tender.

Drain, add remaining ingredients, mix carefully, and serve.

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