Unlike standard pea varieties, whose pods are discarded, the crunchy, sweet pods of sugar snap peas are the best part.
First grown in the 17th century, sugar snap peas weren't grown in commercial quantities in this country until the 1970s. They are a cross between a Chinese or snow pea, grown for its edible pod, and an English variety grown for its edible seeds.
Fresh, whole pods are used in salads, and they're sliced atop noodle dishes. They are a welcome crunchy green component of stir-fried dishes, pureed into soups and even baked into gratins.
Blanching them briefly in salted water before cooling them rapidly in an ice bath will soften the peas without losing their vibrant green color. But monitor them carefully, drain while still slightly crunchy and stop the cooking with an ice bath, or they will turn to mush.
Too much fiber: Before eating, some sugar snap peas should have the threadlike "string" removed from the pod. Snap off a stem and if it's attached to the pod by a string, pull it off.
A word for that: The French use the same word for sugar snap peas and snow peas, their flat-podded cousins. Mangetout means "eat all."
Here, sugar snap peas serve as the green vegetable needed to round out a shrimp stir-fry dish. If your shrimp is defrosted and the rice is made, it takes less than 15 minutes to cook.
>Shrimp with Sugar Snap Peas
1 pound raw medium shrimp, shelled
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
Pinch of white pepper
1 pound sugar snap peas or snow peas
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch blended with 1/8 cup water
Heat oil in a wok or skillet over medium high heat. Cook garlic and shrimp for about 3 minutes or until they just turn pink, stirring constantly.
Stir in the ginger, pepper, peas, oyster sauce and chicken broth. Cover and cook 5 minutes longer or until peas are tender but still slightly crisp.
Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan and stir until thick and clear, about another minute. Serve hot over white rice.
It's a snap! Andrew and a special guest demonstrate how to make this simple stir-fry at video.buffalonews.com