Give Peas a Chance

Give Peas a ChanceSugar snap peas were one of the greatest delights of my vegetable garden last year. The plants, West Coast Seeds’ Sugar Ann variety, were astoundingly prolific. I planted them in March and pinched off a bowlful of crunchy, sweet pods every day from May to September. Many were munched after being tossed in lime pickle and sautéed for a few seconds in olive oil. I also used them in salads, stir fries and Thai dishes. When some unpicked pods started to bulge slightly, I split them open and ate the tiny sweet peas as a refreshing treat in the midst of my garden labours. In mid-August, I planted West Coast Seeds’ Sugar Daddy, which yielded yummy stringless sugar snap peas through the fall. The tall vines needed to be supported, and since they are too stupid to wind their tendrils around the stakes, I tied them onto the stakes with strips of old panty hose.


Sugar snap peas (also known as snap peas and sugar peas) are a cross between English peas (a.k.a. garden peas, green peas and shelling peas) and snow peas (Chinese pea pods). Snow pea pods are thin, flat and crisp, whereas sugar snap pods are plump with nascent peas that add extra oomph to their crunch. Field peas are used to make dried split peas.


Je pense que les French words for foods always sound more enticing than their English names. Par example, entirely edible sugar snap peas and snow peas are called mange-tout (“eat it all”). The French are renowned for uber-sweet petits pois (baby green peas), a hybrid developed by Louis XIV’s gardener at Versailles. I love the well-known quote by Louis’ mistress, Madame de Maintenon, which illustrates the craze for petits pois that swept across Western Europe at the end of the 17th century. She rhapsodised about “the impatience to eat them, the pleasure of having eaten them and the joy of eating them again.” Madame wrote of ladies who, after dining sumptuously with the King, went home and ate bowls of green peas before bed, and explained, “It is both a fashion and a madness.”


If you are passionate about peas, this is the perfect time to make Petit Pois a La Crème according to this 18th century French recipe. Cook two pounds of petits pois in a cup of beef broth with two slices of ham (or bacon) and a bouquet garni made by wrapping one clove, four sprigs of parsley and a small chopped onion in cheesecloth. Cook ten minutes and then remove meat and the bouquet garni. Add salt, pepper and ½ cup of heavy cream. Mix a tablespoon of butter with a teaspoon of flour, add to the peas and stir until thickened. Add a pinch of sugar and the juice of half an orange. Voila.


Twirling Pasta Primavera onto your fork is a wonderful way to celebrate this glorious season (primavera is Italian for “springtime”). Jazz up this classic dish with the tasty trio of baby peas, snow peas and sugar snap peas and other seasonal vegetables.


You will never truly know the piercingly sweet taste of fresh snow peas, garden peas and sugar snap peas until you grow your own. Plant peas from March to the end of May and from July until mid-August. All I am saying is give peas a chance.



Soba Noodle Salad with Sugar Snap Peas, Green Peas and Snow Peas

This is one of my favourite spring and summer dishes. You can make it as a vegetarian dish, or add spicy prawns or slices of barbecued chicken. I dress the salad with umeboshi plum vinaigrette or ginger vinaigrette. Soba (buckwheat) noodles are gluten-free.


2 or 3 bundles of soba noodles

½ a bunch of cilantro, chopped

2 green onions, sliced lengthwise and cut into small strips

½ English cucumber, julienne

2 carrots, julienne

½ cup baby green peas

10 snow peas, halved

10 sugar snap peas, halved

¼ sheet of nori seaweed, cut into matchsticks

¼ cup toasted sesame seeds


Boil noodles until tender and drain. Add vegetables and sesame seeds. Toss with dressing and top with slivers of seaweed. Serves 2 to 4.




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