Flat, crisp snow peas and plump, shiny sugar snap peas are both eaten whole. The former are also called mangetouts, a name derived from the French for “eat it all.” Snow peas originated in Asia more than 10,000 years ago. Snap peas, of more recent origin, were developed as a cross between snow peas and a strain of shell peas. Both are 2 to 3 inches long and have a sweet flavor and an appealing, crunchy texture.
Snow peas and sugar snap peas are at their best flavor when the weather is still cool. The sweetest and crispest ones will come to market during the early spring but are often available through mid-summer. Stir-fry them with other thinly cut vegetables, or serve them raw with flavorful dips or dressings.
Choose snow peas that are light green and crisp and sugar snap peas that are a darker shade of green; avoid larger, thick-skinned pods. Both varieties should feel crisp and snap when broken.
Store snow and sugar snap peas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If they begin to wilt, immerse them in cold water for 10 to 15 minutes to recrisp them.
Older hybrids of snow and sugar snap peas may have tough strings along the sides of the pods, though most modern varieties are free of them. To remove any strings, break off the tip of each pea and pull it along the length of the pod. Both pea varieties should be cooked for as briefly as possible to retain their sweet flavor.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, by Tasha DeSerio & Jodi Liano (Weldon Owen, 2010).