Snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon), also known as sugarsnap peas, are a cultivar group of edible-podded peas that differ from snow peas in that their pods are round as opposed to flat. The name mangetout (French for "eat all") can apply both to snap peas and snow peas.
Snap peas, like all other peas, are pod fruits. An edible-podded pea is similar to a garden, or English, pea, but the pod is less fibrous, and edible when young. Pods of the edible-podded pea, including snap peas, do not have a membrane and do not open when ripe. Sugarsnap peas were developed by crossing Chinese snow peas with a mutant shell pea plant, which was done by Drs. Lamborn and Parker of Twin Falls, Idaho.
Sugar Snap Peas differ from the English Peas slightly as they are less fibrous and can be eaten when young. They have a subtle sweet taste, which can be eaten with a meal or as a snack. Sugar snaps can be eaten whole and, as well as being convenient and easier to prepare, the vegetable is high in vitamins and minerals that are particularly helpful for the heart. Often served in salads or eaten whole. They may also be stir-fried or steamed. Before being eaten, mature snap pea pods may need to be "stringed", which means the membranous string running along the top of the pod from base to tip is removed. Over-cooking the pods will make them come apart.
The humble sugar snap pea is not only an extremely popular vegetable due to its multitude of uses at meal times, but it is also exceptionally good for us, even when compared to many other healthy vegetables. The sugar snap pea contains a range of vitamins that can provide many different health benefits. Vitamin K is a vital vitamin able to keep calcium levels at a proper level and helps to build up the strength of bones and teeth. Sugar snap peas are also very high in Vitamin C, essential for keeping the immune system healthy â€“ a cupful of sugar snap peas contain the same amount of vitamin C as half an orange. Sugar snap peas also contain vitamin B in the form of folate or folic acid. Low levels of folate can raise homocysteine levels, which helps lower the risk of heart attacks. Iron is bountiful within sugar snap peas and the mineral helps with blood cell formation and can prevent anaemia and fatigue.
As well as a range of helpful vitamins and minerals, sugar snap peas are great for anyone who is trying to lose weight, as the vegetable is very high in fibre making them filling; as well as being very low in calories (approximately 70 calories for every half cup). The sweet taste of the pea, combined with these other factors, make it a great snack dish for anyone dieting who gets peckish in between meals.
There is a lot of debate to where peas originated. The wider opinion is that they were originally from Central Asia or the Middle East. Scientists have found carbon dated sugar snap peas in a cave between Thailand and Burma that were dated around 9750 BC. The true extent to how far these peas have travelled can be seen when the excavation of a Swiss Bronze Age site uncovered some peas dating back to 3,000 BC.
Peas seem to have been a stable part of most civilisations' diets. In Europe, these peas were brought in by travelling Nomads and traders, who were heavily integrated in Greek and Roman society. In ancient Greece it is said that 'hot pea soup' was sold in the street as a take away food. While in ancient Rome peas were extensively used in the first Roman cook book. There was, however, a period of time during the Roman era when these peas became poisonous and therefore had to be dried before they were consumed.
Once dried out, these peas provided long-term storage. During the Middle Ages peas were treasured amongst peasants who required food, and their traditional porridge kept for a long time. Peas made a triumphant return in France during the reign of Louis the XIV, through a gardener who started to cultivate these once forgotten peas. He soon created a hybrid that was named 'petit pois'.
When early Europeans migrated to America the pea was widely grown in the south of the country. Today there are over 1000 varieties of pea and they are grown in all areas of the globe, ranging from Europe to India, China to Russia.
Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snap Peas
Sesame Roasted Snap Peas
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