We sit side by side or in front of one another, bowl on our lap and bucket on the ground. A thumb digs into the top of the pod and slices its way down, releasing ripe, bold peas that plink and plunk into our bowls. Spring is special, with cherries and plums and hints of peaches about, but shelling peas marks the season for our youngest one and I. We sit and shell and talk and taste.
Common vegetable picking practice would dictate that smaller peas are more tender than the larger ones, but last weeks’ 5 pound bag of plump peas from Tutti Frutti proved sweeter and surprisingly tender . The mature pods seemed to burst at the seams and begged to be eaten. We ate half of them while shelling and cooked the rest into a fresh, springy sauce for fettuccine.
But what of snow peas? And sugar snap and English? Are they interchangeable, and how can I tell which is edible? Here are a few tips:
- Shelling pea pods aren’t edible, and are easy to tell apart because they are thicker and the peas are rounder and more pronounced.
- Sugar snap peas have a slightly wider, edible pod which should snap and crunch and taste as sweet as you’d expect. The peas inside are smaller than shelling peas, though they can look bigger depending on the variety and how late they were harvested.
- Snow peas are noticeably flatter and nearly translucent. They are sweet and tender and hold up wonderfully in stir-frys.
All of the above should be cooked as little as possible to retain their delicate flavors. Blanching requires a 30-second dunk in a pot of boiling water with a few teaspoons of salt. Remove them with a strainer or slotted spoon and into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.
You’ve got a couple more weeks of peas at the farmers market this early May, but go ahead and plant some seeds in your garden before June hits; seedlings will appear within a week, tendrils grabbing a stake in two and pods appearing the first week in June. You’ll harvest before July and enjoy a few moments of meditative shelling, the best of which could be spent with a little one under 5 with curly hair and a wicked smile.
Wishing you the sweetest day,