Sugar snap peas are one of the most delicious early summer vegetables. They thrive in cool temperatures and are one of the first vegetables offered at farmers markets each spring. Sugar snap peas are a tasty addition to salad, stir-fry, vegetable medley or as a side dish to complement just about anything. They taste wonderful raw and do not need to be cooked or shelled if tender. However, they also taste great when cooked properly.
Pick pea pods from the vine when they are 2 to 3 inches long. Pick pods that are bright green and have not yet started to turn yellow. The pod should be firm around the peas. When you open the pods, look for peas that are bright green and tender. You do not need to take the peas out of the pod --- a lot of the natural sugar is in the crisp pod --- unless the recipe calls for shelled fresh peas.
Break the stem that attaches the pea pod to the vine, and pull toward the tip of the pod to take out the tough "rib." Wash the pods in clean water, and drain. The peas, if young and tender, can be eaten fresh and uncooked. Serve them plain or with a dip made from yoghurt, chives, 1 teaspoon of honey and a bit of garlic powder.
If you want to cook the peas, they can be steamed or sautéed. To steam the pods, heat about ½ inch of water in the base of a large stock pot or in a steamer. Water depletes the vegetables of nutrients, so use only a little water. If you are using a steamer, do not let the water come above the base of the steamer basket. Add a pinch of salt. When the water is boiling, drop the peas into the water, and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove them, and quickly immerse them in ice water to keep their bright green colour. They are ready to eat, or can be frozen for use later.
Sugar snap peas are delicious in stir-fry or curry dishes. Sugar snap peas should be added toward the end of cooking, so they don't lose their colour and crispness. Try adding a cup of pea pods to a stir-fry with chicken and carrots after the carrots are tender and the chicken is cooked through, or add a handful of pea pods to a curry sauce during the last 3 minutes of cooking.
A pinch of salt brings out the natural sweetness of sugar peas.