The aptly named sugar snap pea is a delightful hybrid of the English pea and the Chinese snow pea. The result is a plump, fully edible pod that imparts a sweet crunch and rich pea flavor to a wide assortment of dishes, including a spring vegetables salad; and tossed shrimp with a squeeze of lemon. If you really want to get creative, try pickling them.
Sweeter than English peas and snow peas, sugar snap peas contain high amounts of vitamins C and K and a good serving of plant-based protein. So if you’re looking for a healthy and satisfying quick snack, rinse a cup of sugar snap peas, remove the strings, and enjoy them raw.
Sugar snap peas are light green, about 3 to 4 inches long, with a slightly curved shape. Pleasingly plump and larger than snow peas or English peas, an outline of the seeds can often be seen within the pod.
Sugar snap peas are often shelved with complementary vegetables in the produce section, such as red potatoes or snow peas.
Sugar snap peas are the sweetest of all peas. They work nicely in both raw and cooked recipes, adding a crisp texture and sweetness to salads and savory dishes.
Sugar snap peas are readily available in major supermarkets, specialty stores, and Asian markets.
In many areas of the US and Europe, sugar snap peas are available throughout the year. Peak season is typically late February through early June.
Only about 5 percent of sugar snap peas sold are fresh—the rest are frozen. So when you find them fresh, grab a bunch! They’re bright green, with smooth skin and a firm texture.
Avoid sugar snap peas that are browned or wilted; or sugar snap peas that have pods molded tight against the seeds, indicating dryness.
When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic produce, it’s helpful to know which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “Dirty Dozen” and the 15 least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen”. These lists help identify the produce that is most—and least—dramatically affected by pesticides.
Imported sugar snap peas are #13 on the full list, close to the “Dirty Dozen”; domestic sugar snap peas are #28 on the full list, somewhat between the “Clean Fifteen” and the “Dirty Dozen.” Materials used in the commercial growing process may have contaminants such as herbicides and heavy metals, so choose organic sugar snap peas whenever possible.
However, the Environmental Working Group and Yoffie Life stress that consuming conventionally grown vegetables and fruits when the organic version is unavailable or financially impossible is far better than eating none at all.
Keep unwashed pods in a paper bag or a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper. Stored properly, sugar snap peas should stay fresh for up to three days.
Raw or cooked sugar snap peas are fully edible, pod and all, so wash them under cool running water, then pat dry. Remove the fibrous string along the side of the pea pod by snapping off the tip and pulling the string away.
Vitamin K, specifically vitamin K2, is helpful for regulating and directing dietary calcium in and out of the bones. It is also responsible for proper blood clotting and may aid in protecting the arteries from calcification.
This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure and heart disease risk.
A fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin A is involved in the development of rhodopsin, a molecule in the eye that promotes healthy vision. Vitamin A is also responsible for promoting the immune system, cell growth, skin health, and the formation of the heart and lungs as well as other bodily organs.
The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.
Iron is an essential trace mineral that transports oxygen in red blood cells from the lungs to the rest of the body, aiding energy and endurance.
Sugar snap peas have high amounts of vitamins K, C, A, and B1, which help improve the circulatory system, immune system, metabolism, and vision. Studies indicate that peas aid in heart health, cancer prevention, and reduction of inflammation . As a legume, they also contain a lot of protein.
- The sugar snap pea isn’t very old—it was developed in the 1960s as a cross between an English pea and a Chinese snow pea.
- Sugar snap peas have many aliases, including butter sugar, sandy peas, sugar pods, and simply snap peas.
- Sugar snap peas are used as a vegetable, but they are technically fruits of the legume variety.