Today’s shocking pea-related fact: Only about 5% of peas are sold fresh, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation. These legumes are much more commonly offered canned or frozen; and of those that are sold fresh, most are snow peas and their sweeter, rounder, close relative, sugar snap peas. These are the two main varieties with edible pods, so they hold up a little better fresh than those that must be shelled.
Selecting and Storing Sugar Snap Peas
Turning out good boiled sugar snap peas starts with choosing fresh, quality peas when you purchase them and storing them properly. Look for snap peas that have a uniformly vibrant green color on the pod and stem and that have no yellowing, visible damage, rotting or mold growth. They should be firm and not withering or split open. Smaller pods are sweeter and more tender.
Store fresh sugar snap peas in an unsealed plastic bag in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator and eat them within two days for the best quality. Keep their pods intact and don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them, as moisture promotes bacteria and mold growth.
If you need to freeze raw snap peas, do so in an airtight freezer bag or container, but blanch them first to deactivate certain enzymes and minimize degradation of their texture and flavor. To blanch them, put the pods in lightly salted boiling water for 1 minute; then immediately strain and submerge them in an ice bath to stop any more cooking. Before freezing, dry them completely.
Boiling Sugar Snap Peas
While you bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat (using enough water to fully cover all the pods), rinse off the sugar snap peas. Break off the stems and peel off the attached string-like membrane running down each one.
Add the snap peas to the water and return it to a boil; then reduce the burner to medium-high heat. Cook the pods for about 3 minutes, just until they’re tender-crisp. There’s no need to cover the pot. Drain the pods and toss them with a little olive oil or butter, and salt and pepper to taste.
For slightly browned, crisper sugar snap peas, finish them on the stove with a quick saute after boiling. Heat a pan with some cooking oil or butter over medium-high heat, put in the boiled snap peas before seasoning them, and toss them with salt, pepper and maybe some garlic powder or minced garlic. Saute them for just a minute so they don’t overcook.
Steaming Sugar Snap Peas
If you’d like another stovetop alternative to boiling that preserves a little more of the fresh sugar snap peas’ nutritional value, try steaming them. Wash, de-stem and de-string them and bring a little over 1 inch of water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat.
Place the pods in a steamer basket and carefully set it in the pot. Make sure the water doesn’t come into contact with the snap peas. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-high. Steam the veggies for 3 to 4 minutes, just until they’re tender-crisp. Refrain from opening the lid while cooking, as this lets steam out of the pot and slows the process.
Once they’re done, toss the pods with a light coating of olive oil or butter and add salt and pepper to taste. Or, you can finish them with a quick saute in a little cooking oil or butter to make them a little brown and crispier.
Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, lifestyle, and travel writer. He spent 10 years working front- and back-of-house in a few casual and upscale restaurants, adding professional experience to his love of eating and cooking. He lives with his family in Orlando, Florida. His stories on food and beverage topics have appeared in numerous print and web publications, including Visit Florida, Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and others.