They are green, round and edible; this describes green, snow and sugar snap peas. Although they may resemble each other, there are small differences between them. They are all climbing plants and members of the legume family and they are easily grown in containers or in a small space. Let's learn a little more about each.
Garden peas are sometimes called sweet peas or English peas. The pods are firm and rounded, but you must shell them, remove the peas inside, then discard the pods before eating. The peas are sweet and may be eaten raw or cooked; these are the peas you typically see canned or in the freezer section. They are also more commonly found in farmers markets; you may start looking for them at local farmers markets in the spring. Peas are of best quality when they are immature and fully expanded, but not hard and starchy. Peas should be picked immediately before cooking because their quality, like that of sweet corn, deteriorates rapidly. Very small green peas are known as petite pois. They are not a variety of pea but merely green peas that have been picked before full maturity.
Garden Peas are a source of vitamins A and C, antioxidants that may reduce your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Vitamin A helps maintain eye health while Vitamin C helps protect skin from bruising, helps heal cuts and keeps gums healthy. Eating foods with vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, which helps your body fight fatigue. Peas also provide potassium, vitamin K, magnesium and fiber. Potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure, vitamin K and magnesium help build and maintain strong bones, and fiber helps control cholesterol and keeps your regular. Peas are also a source of folate, which may reduce your risk of heart disease. Eating foods with folate before pregnancy helps lower the risk of delivering a baby with neural tube defects.
Snow peas are also known as Chinese pea pods since it is believed they originated from Southwest Asia. They are flat with very small peas inside. In fact, they are harvested before the peas have fully developed in the pod. The whole pod is edible, although the tough strings along the edges are usually removed before eating. Snow peas are mildly flavored and can be served raw or cooked. These peas are often used in stir-fries. They have a flatter pod than sugar snap peas and are found in the freezer section or fresh at farmers markets.
Snap peas are also known as sugar snap peas and are a cross between snow peas and garden peas. The whole pod is eaten and has a crunchy texture and very sweet flavor. Snap peas may be eaten raw or cooked. Like snow peas, there may be tough strings at the seams of the pods that need to be removed before being eaten, but stringless varieties are now available. Sugar snap peas are a cross between snow and garden peas. The pods of snow peas are flatter with small, premature peas, whereas sugar snap peas are more rounded. Both have an identical nutritional profile and very similar flavors although sugar snap peas tend to be sweeter and more flavorful. Look for snap peas in the freezer section or at local farmers markets.
Snow and snap make great additions to various salads. They can also be fried, stir-fried or steamed and mixed with ornamental vegetables as a great way to boost your vegetable intake. Both types can be roasted with olive oil, lightly sauteed with garlic, or steamed as a side dish. Don't overcook these legumes or you will get limp peas which lose their crispness. Snow and snap peas pods can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for two weeks. They deteriorate only slightly in quality when stored.
Sugar snap peas and snow peas are less starchy than a typical shelled pea. Due to their vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber content, they both offer various health benefits, including reduced heart disease risk, improved blood pressure control, gut health and weight loss. They're also low in calories and provide many nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and folate.
For more information on growing, visit our website by searching for English peas or to receive a free handout or a printed copy of the article and recipe, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609. We're online at [email protected], on Facebook and Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.
Roasted Sugar Snap Peas
pound sugar snap peas, fresh or frozen
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
salt to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Remove and discard stem and string from each pod. Spread sugar snap peas in a single layer on a medium baking sheet, and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with shallots, thyme, and kosher salt. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in the preheated oven, until tender but firm. Tip: If you don't have shallots, substitute two tablespoons finely chopped onions and 2 garlic cloves, minced.
Carla Due is a county extension agent-staff chair with the Miller County Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.