When asked what vegetable we wait for, even pine for, when the cooler weather hits, the answer invariably raises an eyebrow in that, “you're kidding,” kind of way. We blame the grocery store. There is just no way to grow the snappy, juicy and yes, seemingly pedestrian sugar snap pea during the off-season. Of course you can find them year-round, like everything else, at the supermarket, but they are spongey two-inch pretenders often in pre-packaged “convenience” packs marked with expiration dates that make us wonder what they were sprayed with prior to being trapped in their cellophane prison. Ew.
We're talking four to five-inch bowed pods, crisp and so juicy they spray like a just-bitten Fuji, with a stem cap hat — blossom leaves still attached — that shows you how recently they were picked. You could cook them, but then you entirely miss the point. Sugar snap peas — grown right and freshly harvested — are one of the blisses of a fall market day, providing a sweet green snack while you wander the stalls, temporarily blocking the memory of the oppressively hot summer we just had.
Givens Family Farms grows such a fine sugar snap that it is worth every elbow rubbing moment at their continuously crowded stall (both at Hollywood (Sunday) and Santa Monica (Wednesday)) to grab a bag full. While you're there, pick up a few more of your holiday table staples — their parsley throws aroma like a basket of fennel and their carrots are almost sweet potato-like. Just be prepared to wait in lines, both for a chance to fill your bags and then to pay for them. The reward for your patience will be be a piece of harvests that deliver all the promise and flavor of great organic farming.
Great sugar snaps are firm and crisp, not pliable, soft or bendy. A lot of the crunch and flavor comes from the pods and the sweetness from the proto-peas within. Super fat sugar snaps can veer starchy, especially at the end of the season, while super skinny pods lack balanced flavor. “Middle ground, somewhat round,” is the way to go. Most of Givens' pods are a bright, spring green and intact without blemish, but it pays to be a little selective.
Take the time to choose your sugar snaps, even though it'll likely tick off the person waiting behind you. Share space at the crate if you have room and pull pods that are unnicked or unbroken. These sugar snaps are so crisp that they do break under pressure and rough handling, so avoid the temptation to shovel handfuls of them into your bag and go. When you get them home, keep them cold as room temperatures quickly robs them of their magic. These sugar snaps also dehydrate (very low oven, many hours) very nicely into sweet, crunchy and concentrated snacks if you're looking to improve their shelf life.
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