All About Sweet Peas
All sweet peas are botanically the same. The difference is in the breeding, a matter of shape more than flavor. There are three basic sweet pea types: Sweet, garden, or English; plump sugar snap (sometimes called either sugar or snap); and the flat snow or Chinese. The first type has a tougher pod and is best shelled. The others have crisp pods -- one fat, the other flat -- and are best eaten pod and all, raw or only slightly cooked. Pick the pea for the purpose. Fat pods are perfect for dipping, flat pods are best for salads and stir-fries, and shelled peas do whatever they're told. For all types of peas, look for pods that are small, bright green, and shiny. There should be no brown tips, veining, or yellowing. The peas inside should be well-packed, small, and round. If the peas look squared, are hard, and taste starchy, they're over the hill. Refrigerate peas in their pods, unwashed, in a loosely closed plastic bag for up to two days. If shelling, do so immediately before using. To string pods for eating whole or shelling, hold the stalk end and pull down along the seam, following the interior curve.
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