Snap peas and snow peas are coming in. Finally. And they taste good — despite the three freak 90-degree hot spells we’ve had this spring. I planted my peas in mid-March; that’s a good 90 days plus to harvest — which tells us something about how confusing our spring weather was to these vegetables. Persistent they are because the pea harvest is plentiful this year, just quite late.
Peas must be picked and eaten within about two hours. After that, the sugars in the peas begin to break down into starch. They still taste good but not as sweet and refreshing as fresh peas do. You must grow your own peas to be able to taste them at their peak. It’s worth it too and is why fresh peas have been considered a delicacy since the court of Louis XIV. (Another reason why the French have cultivated kitchen gardens, mixing vegetables with flowers in their formal gardens, for centuries.)
Snow peas can be picked, washed and eaten right off the vine. Snap peas, when young, can also be eaten off the vine. However, usually it’s best to let the pea pod lengthen to about 6-8 inches and to shell the peas out of the pod. Pick the pod when it’s brilliant, emerald green. If you wait too long, the pod begins to yellow and the peas sour.
To shell peas, crack the pod open along the spine, then push your thumb under the peas to free them from the pod. Shelling peas actually is quite a therapeutic, relaxing task.
Peas can be steamed lightly to brilliant green and added to salads. For a pea side dish, saute a diced shallot. Add shelled peas. Cook until the peas become very bright green. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper and toss with minced mint (an herb probably found in your kitchen garden too!).
Peas are also wonderful added to risotto or pasta and make a great addition to your favorite potato salad. Snow peas can be stir-fried with other vegetables and meat for a tasty meal.