Snow Peas: A Comprehensive Guide to Names, Cultivation & Storage

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Snow peas are a delicious vegetable that are often used in Chinese cuisine. But do you know where they come from?

Snow peas are a type of pea pod that are picked when they’re still young and tender. They’re usually white or green in color and have a sweet taste. Snow peas are also known as mangetout.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about these delicious veggies.

Snow Peas

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Names

Origins of the Name “Snow Peas”


Snow peas, also known as mangetout, belong to the cultivar group Macrocarpon and are named after their compressed edible pods. The original scientific name for snow peas was Pisum macrocarpum, but this was later replaced with Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon. The French also refer to them as petit pois mange-tout, which means “eat-all green peas.”

Despite their name, snow peas are not related to snow or snowflakes in any way. The name probably arose because they are often planted earlier in the season than other peas, and their white flowers may appear while there is still snow on the ground.

Other Names for Snow Peas


Snow peas have been given many names over the years, some of which are misnomers or inconsistent with their appearance. Here are some of the other names for snow peas:

  • Sugar peas: This moniker arose because of their sweet taste, but it is also a misnomer because snow peas are not high in sugar compared to other vegetables.
  • Chinese pea pods: This name is based on the prevalence of snow peas in Chinese cuisine, where they are often served in stir-fries and other dishes.
  • Mennonite peas: This name refers to the Mennonite community in Pennsylvania, who are known for growing snow peas.
  • Dwarf white sugar: This name is used to refer to a specific variety of snow pea.
  • Birds’ nests: This name is based on the appearance of the snow pea pods, which can resemble birds’ nests.

Snow Peas in Literature


Snow peas have been featured in the works of many authors, including Marion Rombauer Becker, who included them in her famous cookbook “The Joy of Cooking.” Ethan Becker, Marion’s son, later took over the cookbook and continued to include snow peas in updated editions.

Snow peas have also been included in many lists of vegetables and in cookbooks from around the world. They are especially prominent in British cuisine, where they are often served as a side dish or in salads.

The Geography and History of Snow Peas

Introduction


Snow peas, also known as edo, are a culinary staple that has been extensively cultivated and consumed in Chinese cuisine for centuries. Introduced to the new world by migrating Chinese populations, snow peas are now widely planted and consumed across the globe.

History


Personal data and archaeological and genetic research support the experience that people were purposefully selecting ripened snow pea pods, unlike other peas that stand straight, to develop predictable traits. The snow pea was described in Chinese literature as early as 200 BC, and it was introduced to the Western world in the 19th century. Today, snow peas are a popular ingredient in many dishes, particularly in Chinese cuisine.

Geography


Snow peas are planted in the spring and fall in temperate climates, and they grow best in well-drained soil. They are particularly well-suited to low ground, where water can collect and germinate the seeds. Snow peas are also able to tolerate cooler temperatures than other pea varieties, allowing for a longer growing season.

Height and Genetics


Snow peas are a tall variety of pea, often growing taller than other pea plants. This means that they require more space to grow, but they also produce more food per plant. Snow peas are heterozygous for height, with the dominant allele producing tall plants and the recessive allele producing shorter plants. A Punnett square can be used to predict the phenotypic and genotypic ratios of snow pea plants.

Culinary Uses


Snow peas are a versatile ingredient in many dishes, and they are often sautéed or used in stir-fries. They are also a popular addition to salads and can be eaten raw. Snow pea flowers are also edible and can be used as a garnish or added to dishes for a pop of color. In Cajun cuisine, snow peas are often used in dishes such as Prejean’s Crazy Love Snow Peas.

Snow Peas as a Delicious and Nutritious Food

Nutritional Value


Snow peas are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. A 100-gram serving of raw snow peas contains approximately:

  • 98 μg of vitamin K
  • 43 μg of vitamin C
  • 0.1 mg of thiamine
  • 0.1 mg of riboflavin
  • 0.5 mg of niacin
  • 0.2 mg of pantothenic acid
  • 43 μg of folate
  • 24 mg of calcium
  • 24 mg of phosphorus
  • 2 mg of iron
  • 42 mg of potassium

Description and Preparation


Snow peas are a type of flat pea pod that is small and tender. Unlike other types of peas, snow peas have tough edges that are usually removed before cooking. They are mildly flavored and can be eaten raw or cooked. When holding a snow pea, it feels unlike other vegetables, as it has a unique texture that is both crispy and juicy.

Benefits of Snow Peas


Snow peas are high in fiber and low in calories, making them a great addition to any diet. They are also a good source of antioxidants, which can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Additionally, snow peas are harvested early, which means they are fresh and have a high vitamin content.

Snow Peas in Sustainable Farming


Snow peas are a beneficial crop for sustainable farming practices. They can be intercropped with leafy vegetables, which can benefit from the high nitrogen content of snow peas. Snow peas also have a thin fibrous layer that can be used as a beneficial root fix, called mutualistic, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. The Central Search New Hub Sustainable Farming Project offers farmer training that helps immigrant and refugee farmers gain the business and production skills, as well as access to markets and resources necessary to start a viable farm.

Overall, snow peas are a delicious and nutritious vegetable that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Whether you’re looking for a healthy snack or a new ingredient for your favorite dish, snow peas are a great choice.

Description/Taste

Appearance


Snow peas are crunchy, averaging about 8 centimeters in length. They have an oblong shape with a pointed end, attached to a slightly curved stem. The pod showcases a bright, pale green coloring with a thin, oval outline. The pod is fibrous and string extends the length of the pod, which should be removed before consumption. When peeled, the snow peas are slightly chewy, and the string is inedible, creating a softer texture. Selecting fresh snow peas is crucial to ensure the best taste and quality. Starting with a bulging pod with visible seeds is a sign of freshness.

Nutrition


Snow peas are a great source of potassium, which helps balance fluid levels in the body. They are also a good source of iron, which helps develop protein hemoglobin that is responsible for oxygen transport and regulation. Snow peas are a great source of vitamin C, which helps strengthen the immune system by reducing the risk of infections and maintaining healthy organ function. They also provide calcium, which helps build strong bones, and folic acid (vitamin B9), which is essential for healthy cell growth and development.

Preparation and Serving


In traditional Chinese cuisine, snow peas are consumed to stimulate the digestive tract and cleanse the body. They are often paired with shallots, garlic, and cilantro to add a snow grassy flavor. The strings should be removed before cooking. Snow peas can be eaten raw and served as a crudité or herb, chopped and layered in grain salads, or placed as a garnish or topping. They can also be tossed with rice or incorporated into curries or roasted meat dishes. For a zesty addition, citrus can be traditionally simmered with snow peas.

Nitrogen Fixation: The Miraculous Role of Snow Peas

What are nitrogen fixers?


Nitrogen fixers are plants that have the ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen gas into a chemical form that can be used by plants. This process is crucial for the survival of plants, as nitrogen is a key component of proteins and other essential molecules that plants need to grow and thrive.

How do snow peas fix nitrogen?


Snow peas, like other legumes, have a symbiotic relationship with rhizobia, a type of bacteria that naturally exist in the soil. When snow peas are planted, the rhizobia infect the roots and form nodules. Inside these nodules, the bacteria take atmospheric nitrogen gas and convert it into ammonium, a form of nitrogen that the plant can use.

Why is nitrogen fixation important?


Nitrogen fixation is important for several reasons:

  • It supplies plants with the nitrogen they need to grow and produce food.
  • It gives plants the energy they need to carry out essential processes.
  • It is a key part of the ecosystem, as it helps to ensure that nitrogen is available to all living organisms.
  • It helps to fulfill one of the key goals of sustainable agriculture, which is to reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.

Should you buy ready-to-use inoculant or make your own?


While it is possible to make your own inoculant by collecting soil from a healthy legume patch, it is generally recommended to buy a ready-to-use inoculant. This is because the inoculant needs to contain a specific strain of rhizobia that is compatible with your snow peas, and it can be difficult to know if you have the right strain if you make your own.

In conclusion, snow peas are not only a delicious and healthy food, but they also play a crucial role in nitrogen fixation. By planting snow peas and other legumes, we can help to ensure that our soil stays healthy and that our crops have the nitrogen they need to grow and thrive. So next time you’re about to throw that bag of snow peas on the dashboard of your car on a hot day, remember the extra step you can take to ensure they stay alive and beneficial.

Cultivation and Storage

Growing Snow Peas


Snow peas are a type of snap pea and are commonly grown in home gardens. They are a member of the legume family, which also includes beans and lentils. Snow peas are generally believed to have originated in Thailand and spread to other parts of Asia before traveling to Europe. Historic evidence indicates that the ancient Greeks and Romans cultivated snow peas, with the vegetable gracing dinner tables for over a millennium.


Domestication and Provenance Debate

There is some debate centering around the provenance of snow peas, with some experts believing that they originated in Europe and were introduced to Asia. Regardless of their origin, snow peas are now popular on both continents and are a common ingredient in many dishes.

Snow peas are available in two types: bush and vining. Bush snow peas grow to be about two feet tall and do not require support, while vining snow peas can grow up to six feet tall and need a makeshift fence or trellis to climb.


Planting and Care

Snow peas are generally planted in February or March and forward as an annual ritual. They prefer well-worked soil and should be planted in an area that receives full sun. To plant snow peas, follow these steps:

  • Soak the seeds in water for a few hours before planting to help them germinate.
  • Plant the seeds 1-2 inches deep and 2-3 inches apart.
  • Water the seeds regularly, but be careful not to overdo it as snow peas do not like to be waterlogged.
  • Once the seedlings are about 4-6 inches tall, thin them out so that they are about 4-6 inches apart.
  • Snow peas can be harvested when the pods are about 3 inches long and the peas inside are still small and tender.

Snow peas are generally easy to care for and do not require much attention. However, it is important to keep an eye out for pests such as aphids and to provide support for vining snow peas as they grow taller.

Differences

Snow Peas Vs Edamame

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “aren’t they both just some kind of green bean thing?” Well, yes and no, my friend. Let me break it down for you.

Snow peas are those crispy little guys that you often find in stir-fries and salads. They have a mild, sweet flavor and a satisfying crunch. They’re also known as Chinese pea pods, and they’re a type of pea plant that’s harvested before the peas inside have a chance to mature. So, you’re basically eating the whole pod. Talk about efficiency!

Edamame, on the other hand, is a type of soybean that’s harvested when it’s still young and green. You’ve probably had it as an appetizer at a sushi restaurant. They’re usually served in the pod, and you pop the beans out with your teeth. They have a buttery, slightly nutty flavor and are a great source of protein. Plus, they’re fun to eat. Who doesn’t love playing with their food?

So, to sum it up, snow peas are a type of pea plant that you eat whole, while edamame is a type of soybean that you eat the immature beans inside the pod. Both are delicious and nutritious, and they can add some variety to your meals. Just make sure you’re planting them at the right time of year and giving them the care they need to thrive. Happy gardening, folks!

Snow Peas Vs Sugar Snap Peas

Snow peas are those flat, delicate pods that you often see in Chinese cuisine. They’re believed to have originated in Southwest Asia, but now they’re grown all over the world. The pods are flat and have small, premature peas inside. The whole pod is edible, but the tough strings on the edges are usually removed before eating. Snow peas are mildly flavored and can be served raw or cooked in stir-fries.

Now, let’s move on to sugar snap peas. These bad boys are a cross between snow peas and garden peas, and they have a rounded shape with a crunchy texture and sweet flavor. The pods are thicker and have fully developed peas inside, and they’re often eaten raw or cooked like snow peas. The tough strings and seams on the pods need to be removed before eating, but there are stringless varieties available.

So, what’s the verdict? Well, snow peas and sugar snap peas may look similar, but they have some distinct differences. Snow peas are flatter and have small, premature peas inside, while sugar snap peas are rounded and have fully developed peas. Snow peas are mild in flavor, while sugar snap peas are sweet and crunchy. Both are delicious in their own way, so why not try them both and see which one you prefer? Happy pea-eating, folks!

Conclusion

Snow peas are delicious, nutritious, and versatile. They’re perfect for stir fries, salads, and even as a garnish.  You can even eat the pods raw or cooked.  So, next time you’re at the grocery store, grab some snow peas and give them a try!

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.