Snap peas (also known as Sugarsnap peas, or Mange-touts in Britain) are a cultivar group of edible-podded peas that differ from snow peas in that their pods are round as opposed to flat. 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. At maturity, the pods grow to around 4-8 cm in length, Pods contain 3 to 5 peas per pod.
They get their name from the French 'mange tout' meaning to 'eat everything'; as unlike with many other varieties of pea, you can eat the peas and the pod.
There are several cultivars of snap peas, including "sugar Rae", "sugar bon", "sugar Ann", and "sugar snap". The plants are climbing, and pea sticks or a trellis or other support system is required for optimal growth. Some cultivars are capable of climbing to 2 m high but are more commonly around 1-1.3 m for ease of harvest. Sugarsnap peas were developed by crossing chinese snow peas with a mutant shell pea plant, which was done by Drs. Lamborn and Park of Twin Falls, Idaho.
Snap peas are nutritious and filling, yet not as high in total carbohydrates and fats as normal peas. The pods themselves contribute mostly water and vitamins to the consumer.
The snap pea is a cool season vegetable. It may be planted in spring as early as the soil can be worked. Seeds should be planted one to one-and-a-half inches deep. It tolerates light frost when young; it also has a wider adaptation and tolerance of higher temperatures than some other pea cultivars. Snap peas may grow to two meters (six feet) or more, but more typically are about 1.3 meters (about four feet). They have a vining habit and require a trellis or similar support structure.
The soft and tender pods of snap peas are crisp, sweet, and succulent, 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. To avoid this, they should only be lightly steamed, or gently fried in oil. Snap pea pods may be frozen, but never canned, as the high temperatures are damaging.