Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Snow Pea in Summer

One can only guess how the snow pea got its name. Peas are among the first crops to be sown by home gardeners in the springtime; in temperate climates, a dusting of snow would not be unlikely after planting. Known for their ability to withstand a late frost, pea plants produce well only in consistently cool growing conditions.

Once an exotic specialty food, fresh snow peas are now available in California markets almost year round. The sugar snap pea is the other edible- pod pea variety; plumper and shorter than the snow pea, it's a cross between the sweet pea and snow pea. The sugar snap and the snow pea are also known by their French name "mangetout" which means "eat all".

One of the earliest plants cultivated by humans, peas are a fine source of protein and vitamins. But snow peas are most appreciated for their sweet refreshing flavor, crisp texture and vibrant green color, all of which can be enhanced by simple preparation. Try stir frying briefly with ginger root, garlic and green onion, or steam lightly and toss with almonds, tamari sauce and a few drops of toasted sesame oil.

Snow peas are at their very best eaten raw, straight from the vine on a cool early morning. If you don't have a garden, look for bright green snow peas at the produce market. Select small or medium sized pods for best flavor. Stored in a plastic bag in the fridge, they'll keep well for several days and travel well to work or school for a quick, energizing snack. So, mange tout! Enjoy the crunchy chill of a small snow pea flurry in summer.