This time of year, you can find three types of fresh, tender peas at their peak. English peas, also called garden peas, grow in fibrous pods and must be shelled before eating. Thin, crisp snow peas, on the other hand, can be eaten pod and all. Snap peas are a sweet, entirely edible cross between the two.
For all types, look for vibrant green pods with no bruising. English peas should be sweet and plump -- many markets sell already-shelled peas, which are a big time-saver. Snow and snap peas should be crisp, not wrinkled or limp.
Fresh is best: The sugars in peas begin converting to starch right after they're picked. Refrigerate the pods in a plastic bag for up to 3 days; shell English peas just before using.
Peas add color and lively flavor to soups, salads, pastas, dips, and more. All peas can be eaten raw, or try them lightly cooked. Boil shelled English peas in salted water until they're bright green but still pop when you bite them, 1 to 2 minutes. Snap and snow peas can be blanched or sauteed for 1 to 2 minutes, which will keep them pleasantly crisp.