When country neighbors asked me to baby-sit their garden one May weekend while they were in the city, I warned them that choosing me could be botanically life-threatening. Even potted chives and ivy wither away under my black thumb.

No watering or weeding, they assured me. My sole responsibility was harvesting the sugar snap peas that matured each day on vines that spiraled up bamboo poles in their picture-perfect garden.

These sweet, crisp cuties, the first crop ready for picking in many home gardens, beat other vegetables to an edible state by several weeks in our Northeast area, so nothing else needed tending during those two days.

The first task was spotting the chubby, shamrock-green pods hanging among a lacy proliferation of curly tendrils and white flowers. Those measuring two and a half inches and filled with mature peas, I detached from the vine by hand, ideally at the shining moment when the dew was nearly gone and bright sun barely warmed the morning air.

A cross between the tough-shelled English pea and tender snow pea, sugar snaps are best picked when the peas inside are quite immature, and eaten as soon as possible after harvesting. (As with corn, the sugar in them quickly turns to starch.)

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This adds incentive for home gardeners, for there is no comparison between the flavor of just-picked and store-bought sugar snaps. In any case, do not store them more than a few days in the refrigerator.

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I snap off the stem tip, but string only large sugar snaps. This should be done after they are boiled or steamed.

Cooking brings out their best flavor, so if not stir-frying or sauteing sugar snaps, boil them for 30 seconds, or up to three minutes for salads, crudit�s and other dishes. Drain them immediately and then plunge them into a bowl of ice cold water to preserve their bright color and crispness. Refrigerated, they keep several hours at this point.

Sugar Snap Peas and Carrots

Makes 4 servings.

  • 1 tsp. canola oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. grated or minced ginger
  • 8 oz. sugar snap peas
  • 3 baby carrots, cut lengthwise in 8 strips
  • 3 Tbsp. chicken or vegetable broth, or water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large basil leaves, cut crosswise in thin strips
  1. Heat oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Saut� garlic and ginger until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add peas and carrots to the pan, stirring to coat them with oil. Add broth or water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in basil and serve.

Per Serving:
47 calories,
1 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat),
7 g. carbohydrate,
2 g. protein, 2 g. dietary fiber,
109 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1-1/2 Vegetable