Ask Evan: What’s the difference between English Peas, Sugar Snap Peas and Green Peas?

Every Tuesday I answer a question from a Good Food listener. You can email me a question, leave one on Facebook or add one in the comments section here. This week’s came from Mary:

What’s the difference between English peas, sugar snap peas and green peas?

English or Green Peas traditionally have been grown for the sweet little peas that reside inside the pod.  The pod has been seen as inedible and, of course there is that fiddly “string” or zipper which you must pull to open the pods and release the peas.  Sugar snaps have a plump edible pod and sometimes less developed interior peas. Some varieties have no “string” which makes it very easy to pop the lovely, sweet crunchy veg into your mouth raw, cut them up for salads on throw them into a hot pan for a quick sear.  However, the differences between the two varieties English and Snap are starting to cloud a bit.  More and more chefs are experimenting with cooking the pods of English Peas and the peas inside of Sugar Snaps have gotten bigger and plumper.  I think overall the biggest difference is in their flavor.  Since English Peas focus on the peas inside and are extremely short season they symbolize the ephemeral nature of Spring and Rebirth.  The peas can get starchy very quickly and lose their lovely vegetal sweetness.  Sugar Snaps stay sweet longer but the trade off is a less complex, less “pea” flavor.
  • Priyanka

    Peas are native to the Punjab region of north-west India, and should properly be named Punjabi Peas, rather than English Peas. Rice dishes are flavored with plump fresh peas in the winter, and peas are also cooked as a main dish – with a little bit of chopped onion and garlic, finished off with chunks of paneer (Mozarella-like cheese) for a cozy winter Indian dish. People still buy peas by the bushel in India, and sit in the winter sun and shell them, sipping chai on the side. The fragrance is unbelievable!

    • I wish I could sit and shell peas on the sun while sipping chai. Oh that's right, I can! Thanks for this Priyanka.

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