Sweet, fresh peas are the essence of spring, from delicate English peas to crisp sugar snaps. They all cook in a flash, lending themselves to a variety of creative dishes. Read on for our best tips for choosing, storing and working with peas, plus some of our favorite ways to use them in the kitchen.
Look for: Pods of English peas should be bright green, and they will feel heavy in your hand. Snow peas should be light green and crisp, while sugar snaps are darker, but both should feel crisp and snap when broken. Eat English peas the same day you buy them for the best flavor (their sugars convert quickly to starch). If you do need to store them, keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Snow peas and sugar snaps can be stored the same way — if they start to wilt, place them in cold water for 10 to 15 minutes to recrisp.
Prep tips: Snow and sugar snap peas are both eaten hole, but English peas need to be shelled before use. Shell them right before cooking so they don’t dry out. All peas — shelled or whole — should be cooked for a just a few minutes in simmering water so they don’t become soggy.
Uses: Because of their starchiness, English peas are delicious pureed into creamy soups or spreads. They also add their grassy flavor and bright color to risottos, pastas and pilafs. Steam them and sprinkle with fresh herbs, such as mint or parsley, for an easy side dish. Snow and sugar snap peas can be eaten raw as crudites, but they’re also great in stir-fries, pairing well with Asian flavors.
Variations: Pea shoots are the delicate leaves and tendrils that grow from the vines of the pea plant. They are tender and sweet, delicious when eaten raw or sauteed. Try them in stir-fries, with seafood, on top of pizzas, and tossed into salads; you can also use them to garnish spring dishes.
|Pea and Asparagus Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing
An all-green salad makes a bold statement that spring has arrived. Add shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino for a rich, nutty note. Any leftover salad can be stirred into risotto, pasta or omelettes.
|Spring Pea Soup with Grilled Ham and Cheese
Here, peas are blended into a creamy soup with shallot and mint. The soup is delicious on its own, but add a sandwich to make it a meal.
|Wheat Berry Salad with Snow Peas and Carrots
Paired with healthy, hearty wheat berries, carrots and snow peas create a colorful springtime dish that’s perfect for a light lunch or side dish.
|Ricotta and Pea Crostini with Tarragon and Pink Peppercorns
This delicate, original appetizer is a welcome addition to a spring dinner or cocktail party.
|Penne with Walnut Pesto and Peas
English and sugar snap peas star in this simple pasta, dressed with a walnut pesto sauce that’s bursting with the flavor of fresh basil.
|Peas with Pancetta, Mint and Ricotta Salata
This simple salad showcases fresh English peas with fried pancetta, aromatic mint and ricotta salata, juxtaposing sweet and salty flavors without overpowering the peas.
|Stir-Fried Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas and Lemon
Sugar snap peas provide their natural sweetness and irresistible crunch to this easy chicken stir-fry.