Vegetables for vitality: peas

October 9, 2015

Thanks to the popularity of snow peas and subsequently sugar snap peas – both peas with edible pods that require little preparation – more people are enjoying the benefits of fresh peas today than ever before.

Vegetables for vitality: peas

1. Nutritional value

Packed into 125 millilitres (1/2 cup) of cooked peas:

  • About 65 calories
  • B vitamins for energy production
  • Vitamin C for resistance to infection
  • Folate to promote normal growth
  • Iron to carry oxygen through your body
  • Plenty of fibre to maintain digestive health

2. At the market


Fresh sweet peas are available late spring and early summer. The season for fresh sugar snap peas and snow peas extends throughout the summer. Crops from California, Florida and Central America extend the season into the winter months.

What to look for

  • The freshest pea pods at the market will look shiny and firm; if rubbed together they squeak a little.
  • Avoid any pale green or yellow pods, an indicator that their sugars have begun to turn to starch. If possible, taste one to test.
  • The sweetest green shell peas are best small to medium sized. They should fit snugly inside their pods without looking swollen or crowded.
  • Large, heavy, shell pea pods usually signal that the peas will be tough and starchy. On the other hand, light, thin pods indicate bland peas.

3. In the kitchen


Like corn, time is of the essence when it comes to serving fresh peas, so storage is not recommended. If you must, store peas briefly in plastic wrap in the coldest part of the refrigerator.


  • To shell green peas, snap off the top of the pod and pull the string down the side, opening the pod in the process. The peas will pop right out.  Sugar snap pods are edible, but you may encounter some varieties that need stringing.
  • To string sugar snaps, bend the stem tip toward the flat side of the pod to snap it, then gently pull downward, removing the string with the stem. Snow peas need only the stem tip trimmed.

Basic cooking

  • Nothing could be simpler than cooking fresh peas.
  • Boil water, add a good pinch of salt and stir in the peas. Sugar snap peas and snow peas will be crisp-tender in one to two minutes; shell peas, depending on their size and freshness, will cook in two to four minutes.
  • A pinch of sugar in the cooking water boosts the flavour of peas that are not perfectly sweet.

4. Fresh ideas

  • Toss a handful of blanched peas into fresh salads.
  • Pluck a handful of fresh green peas from their pods and eat them for a nutritious snack.
  • Add raw shelled peas to stews, soups and vegetable sautés during the last minutes of cooking.
  • Add peas to plain grains such as rice, couscous and pasta.
  • Garnish a platter of sliced roasted meat with a handful of blanched shelled peas.
  • For a smoky taste to complement their sweetness, sauté sugar snap peas with a little chopped bacon.
  • Cut blanched snow peas into small pieces and add them to egg salad or tuna salad to provide texture.

5. Did you know?

  • A 175 millilitre (3/4 cup) serving of fresh green peas has more protein than an egg.
  • Snow peas, so closely associated with Chinese stir-fries, were actually developed in Holland in the 1500s.
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