The snow pea is an edible-pod pea. It is characterized by its flat pods and thin pod walls. The snow pea is eaten whole, with both the seeds and the pod. The French call it pois mangetout or “eat-all pea” because there is nothing to discard and you can simply put it in your mouth and start eating it. Snow peas are like sugar snap peas in the sense that both have edible pods, but of the two, the snow peas have thinner pod walls. We enjoy eating snow peas but farmers and vegetable growers appreciate snow peas for another reason. As nitrogen fixers that help deliver nitrogen to the soil, snow peas are an excellent and very useful companion plant especially for crops that require high nitrogen content in the soil.
Species: P. sativum
Cultivar group: Macrocarpon Group
Snow Peas Trivia
- Snow Pea is the earliest cultivated pea (9750 BC)
- People believed snow pea got its name from its ability to survive frost or snow.
- Botanically, a snow pea is a fruit. However, it is commonly used as a vegetable.
Snow Peas Buying Guide
If you are buying packaged snow peas, these likely are the best from the harvest since commercial producers won’t sell those that do not pass quality standards. If you are buying from a market, farm stand, or farmers market, keep in mind these few tips when looking for the best snow peas. First, make sure it is at least three inches long. Next, make sure it has a light green color and smooth, firm skin. Lastly, check for discoloration, damage, holes, etc. before buying. Remember that snow peas are available year-round, so there is no reason to buy large quantities unless you live far from the nearest market or store. The peak season for snow peas production and harvesting is during spring up to early summer.
To avoid confusion, it helps if you are also familiar with the other names that refer to snow peas: Mammoth Melting Sugar, Oregon Sugar Pod, Golden Sweet Edible Podded, Dwarf Gray Sugar, and Mammoth Melting Sweet Pod.
Snow Peas Production & Farming in Texas
Snow peas are a cool-season vegetable that can be cultivated during winter and spring because it is frost hardy.
Since all garden pea varieties grow in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 11, snow peas can be grown anywhere in Texas where regions range from Zone 6 to Zone 9B.
Some of the problems you will encounter growing snow peas include the following: blight, botrytis rot, downy mildew, powdery mildew, root rot, rust, and leaf spot.
- Blight – Use protectant (contact) fungicides, such as the inorganics (copper, FRAC group M1)
- Botrytis rot – Use group M3 protectant fungicide (Mancozeb)
- Downy mildew- Use dimethomorph, dithiocarbamate, metalaxyl-M, fosetyl aluminium, or propamocarb hydrochloride.
- Powdery mildew – Use copper fungicide or sulfur plant fungicide.
- Root rot – Use fungicides with active ingredient thiophanate-methyl (or others in the benzimidazole group – MOA 3).
- Rust – There are several options to address the problem of rust. The first option is a weekly dusting of sulfur. Neem oil can also control and prevent rust from spreading or worsening. If you are into organic gardening, you can use baking soda spray as fungus control. You can mix it with light horticultural oil.
- Leaf spot – Use sulfur sprays or copper-based fungicides to prevent the spores from germinating.
Snow peas are oftentimes called Chinese pea pods but this is misleading since the origin of this plant is in the Mediterranean. From here, it was brought to China because of trade.
The United States is the world’s biggest producer of snow peas. In the US, California accounts for the largest number of harvested snow peas. Other countries that grow and export snow peas include the UK, China, Hungary, and India.
You can buy freshly-harvested snow peas sold in a plastic clamshell container or on a styrofoam tray covered in plastic wrap. Sprouting seeds are sold in plastic see-through packets or foil packs.
Enjoying Snow Peas
Snow peas are enjoyable to eat because they taste good and they are crispy and crunchy. Snow peas contain a lot of natural sugar. This explains why snow peas taste sweet especially when eaten raw. If you notice while eating that a snow pea is easy to chew, it is because the pod’s fibers travel in only one direction.
When eating snow peas, you can taste how delicious this food is if it is paired with food that complements it, like cashews, citrus, tofu, water chestnuts, sweet peppers, carrots, onions, greens, broccoli, salmon, shrimp, scallops, and other seafood, and chicken. To season, use sesame oil, soy sauce, mint, parsley, garlic, ginger, or curry powder.
You can put snow peas in the refrigerator. Place these inside a paper bag or a perforated plastic bag. Make sure to store for no longer than four days. Any longer than that and the quality of the snow peas is questionable.
You can eat snow peas raw, or mix it with vegetables when cooking a particular dish; for example, it is paired with asparagus to make a snow pea asparagus spring salad (best with ginger-cardamom dressing). The common and popular use of snow peas when cooking is in stir-fries, salad, fried rice, spring rolls, soups, curries, noodles, meat, and vegetable dishes. Others prefer steamed snow peas which they drizzle with lemon juice. Butter and tarragon complete this simple yet tasty dish. Another simple recipe that packs flavor is snow peas roasted in olive oil and sea salt. Eat this along with pine nuts and parmesan cheese.
Do not cook snow peas for a long time. The high sugar content makes it turn brown very fast during cooking. Always make sure that you cut the tip of each snow pea and pull out the tough string that runs along its side.
Snow peas are a great source of protein, dietary fiber for a healthy digestive system, Vitamin C and Vitamin A (for the immune system), Vitamin B6 and folic acid (for a healthy brain), iron, potassium, and calcium (for strong bones). Of all the types of peas, snow peas have the highest calcium and Vitamin A.