The crunchy, crisp, yet nutritious, zeal you get from a snap pea is irreplaceable. With so many varieties to choose from, like the sugar snap pea, snow pea, and the garden pea, they are all very different yet equally nutritious. Snap peas belong to the legume family and have edible peas with an edible pod. They are predominantly fresh in the spring and summertime and are best purchased from your local farmers market. They have a low starch content and they are filled with fiber which will satisfy even the most ravenous craving. One of the simple pleasures of eating the snap pea comes in the crunch it gives when you bite into it, and the flavor is also a highlight as well!   

Snap Peas Fun Facts

  • “During the Middle Ages, dried peas became a staple food of the European peasants. In their dried form, peas had the capability of long storage throughout the winter months. 
  • Peas were probably among the first vegetables to be canned by a company that became the household name that remains familiar today. The Campbell Soup Company began canning peas in 1870.  
  • More than 1,000 varieties of peas are in existence today.” [1] 
  • “A 100 calorie serving of sugar snap peas has more protein than a whole egg or tablespoon of peanut butter. 
  • Sugar snap peas are only available either fresh or frozen. Canning would destroy the structure of the pod. 
  • One cup of sugar snap peas equals 45 calories.” [2] 
  • “Fresh sugar pea pods are an excellent source of folic acid. 100 grams of fresh peas provides 10.5% of recommended daily levels of folates.  
  • Fresh pods carry 150% more vitamin C than garden peas. 
  • Since sugar peas are consumed whole, they provide relatively higher dietary fiber.” [3] 

Snap Peas History/Mythology

Peas are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world, and they were grown at first just for their dry seeds. They have a rich history dating back to 5,000 BC, but there is a debate over where they actually originated. It is said to be either in Central Asia or in the Middle East, but wherever they are actually derived from doesn’t matter. It’s their journey throughout the world that makes them interesting! In Europe especially, peas were a crucial part of people’s everyday diets and were brought over by traders and travelling Nomads. Very prevalent in the Greek and Roman culture, there were many uses for them in the kitchen, which enhanced the people’s overall health.  

At one point, however, during the Roman era, peas became poisonous and were not edible off the branch, and instead they had to be dried out, which took longer. [4] The good news about drying the peas versus eating them raw was their shelf life, which now was increasingly longer. This was a very important food source for peasants who did not have access to a lot of food, and it gave them a source of protein that was affordable. Actual sugar snap peas were created in the 1970’s and are a cross between regular green peas and snow peas. [5] 

According to BC Agriculture, “Sugar snap peas are a more recent invention. In the 1960s, during research to solve the problem of twisting and buckling pea pods, Dr. C Lamborn of Idaho, found a rogue pea plant which produced pod walls much thicker than the normal English shelling type pea (Pisum sativum). He crossed this unusual English pea with the flatter Chinese snow pea type.” [6] Their harvest season is much more finicky than the regular pea plant, and if you leave them for too long, they will turn yellow, have more strings, and become too starchy for enjoyment.  

Snap Peas Nutritional Facts

The sugar snap pea, or any snap pea for that matter, has a sweeter taste by nature. They are crunchy, fresh, and naturally low in calories for optimal enjoyment. They contain over 150% more vitamin C than your normal garden pea, and they are also rich in vitamins K and A. They also contain good amounts of folic acid, vitamin B, and a plethora of other essential minerals. According to Healthy Eating, “Each 3-ounce serving of raw sugar snap peas has 1.75 milligrams of iron, 20 milligrams of magnesium, 45 milligrams of phosphorus and 168 milligrams of potassium, giving men and women 5 to 10 percent of their recommended daily intake for these minerals.” [7] 

The antioxidant levels of snap peas starts off high, and as heat and time make their way in, the levels significantly drop. It is best to consume snap peas fresh and at cooler temperatures so you can obtain the best nutritional value, including their antioxidants. Lastly, an important nutrient key to snap peas is iron. With just one serving of snap peas you will get 20% of your iron needs for the day. These juicy and nutritious beans are easy to consume because you don’t have to take them out of their pods, and you can just consume them straight from the vine, which makes them a great snack on the go.  

Snap Peas Health Benefits

Because of snap peas fiber content, they are extremely filling and will help boost your gut health and even aid in weight loss. They are best consumed with a dip of some sort, or even lightly salted. Snap peas are also very high in vitamin A and beta carotene, which also can help boost your immune system by fighting off bad bugs that can bring down our health. Their vitamin K content keeps bones healthy and strong, and their iron content will help you feel more energized throughout the day! [8] 

Manganese is also another great mineral that snap peas provide to the body, as it helps regulate blood sugar, calcium absorption, and overall hormone production in the body. Vitamin K also helps in regulating excessive bleeding in the body by allowing the blood to clot if need be. This should not be alarming, as it does not overdo it with clotting but rather only as the body needs it.

According to Dr. Health benefits,

“Blood clots are formed by combining the blood cells with the proteins in your plasma. They are automatically formed every time your body receives an injury that results in bleeding. If the injury was too severe, the injured might lose a lot of blood before the blood clot could be formed to stop the bleeding.” [9]  

Snap Peas Varieties

There is an abundance of snap pea varieties to choose from, and each type has its own branch to then harvest from making the choices endless. Within the varieties of peas in general the list is thousands long, however, there is a small group of peas with an edible shell as well, which I will outline below. These are better known as snap peas and they can be consumed right off the vine.  

Snow Peas

They are light green and typically very flat. The snow pea can be consumed pod and all, and it best used in stir-fries.  

Snow Pea Shoots

The shoots are simply the beginnings of a snow pea plant that is about to blossom. You can consume the pod, vine, and leaves and they are both sweet and flavorful. 

Sugar Snap Peas

This pea is a cross between the garden pea and the snow pea and is sweet and crunchy in taste and texture. [10] 

Snap Peas Uses

Snap peas can be used in a variety of ways, mainly for consumption purposes. If you dry them out and lightly salt them, you will have yourself a handful of snap pea chips or crisps! If you lightly cook them with a stir fry you will have a pleasantly crisp bite to your Asian cuisine. How do you cook sugar snap peas anyways? They are rather simple to cook and take less than 5 minutes in a skillet. Simply add a light oil and seasoning to them and cook over medium heat no longer than 5 minutes and they will be ready to enjoy. This amazing food is rather edible, versatile, and an easy snack to cook at home or take on the go. Here is an easy and healthy sugar snap pea recipe to try out below by Food Network that will be a hit at your next get-together.  

Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas 

By: Ina Garten The Food Network 

6 Servings 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh sugar snap peas 
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • Sea salt or fleur de sel, for serving 

Instructions 

  1. “Remove and discard the stem end and string from each sugar snap pod. 
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the sugar snap peas, salt, and pepper and sauté, tossing occasionally for 3 to 5 minutes, until the sugar snap peas are crisp tender. 
  3. Place the sugar snap peas in a serving bowl, sprinkle with sea salt, and serve.” [11] 

 

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