This week, two types of peas appear in CSA boxes (full shares) and on market tables. Joining the sugar snap peas we had last week are some gorgeous shelling peas. So what’s the difference and how do you tell them apart?
For a beautiful breakdown, check out Food52’s Down & Dirty lesson. Here’s the short version, with some recipes to try out your newfound knowledge:
Sugar snap peas should be fat, not flat. Generally, the plumper the pea, the sweeter it is. The crunchy crescent-shaped pods are meant to be eaten raw–no need to string, shuck, or cook. The peas inside will look oblong and underdeveloped.Like corn, the sugar in snap peas converts to starch the longer it has spent between the field and your mouth. It’s best to eat them super fresh.
If you can resist the temptation to snack them all away, snap peas also do well in a quick stir-fry and pair well with Asian flavors like sesame and soy.
Shelling Peas (also known as English peas or garden peas) have pods with a more elongated shape and a darker green color. The peas inside should be bulging against the pod and look nice and filled out. Unlike a snap pea, the fibrous pod must be peeled off like a shell (hence the name) before eating the peas. This is a fun activity to do with kids in the kitchen. Simply snap the stem of the top, pulling string like a zipper down the lenghth of the pod. Crack the shell open and scoot the peas out into a bowl. One pint of shelling peas in the pod should yield about 1 cup of shelled peas.
After shucking, the peas are preferable cooked until they are bright green and tender. My favorite way to eat them is the simplest: boiled, then tossed with a gob of butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Snap Pea and Sesame Noodle Salad
1 pint sugar snap peas, stems cut off
1/4 pound soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles found in health food store or Asian cuisine aisle of the grocery store)
3 teaspoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1. Prep: Cook soba noodles according to instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Cut snap peas into 1/2 inch segments, approximately three pieces per pea.
2. Assemble: Toss noodles, peas, and the remaining ingredients together in a salad bowl. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Pea and Ricotta Salad with Fresh Mint
1 pint shelling peas in pod, or 1 cup shelled peas
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 sprigs fresh mint
olive oil, salt, and pepper, for seasoning
lettuce, for serving
1. Prep: Shell peas. Pluck leaves from mint sprig, roll up leaves, and slice into thin ribbons. Set a medium pot of water on to boil.
2. Cook: drop peas in the boiling water. They will sink at first, then rise to the surface. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the peas are a vibrant green and a taste test reveals them to be tender and sweet. Strain and rinse with cold water.
3. Serve: Toss cooled peas, ricotta cheese, mint, salt, and pepper together. Serve on a bed of lettuce (or use the lettuce like a wrap) and drizzle with good olive oil.Text and photography by Katie Darlington- Taproot employee, home cooking enthusiast, and farm-to-kitchen blogger. More recipes and writing can be found on her own blog A Season to Taste