The French name tells you everything; it means ‘eat it all’. Mangetout properly means a type of garden pea picked very young, so young that the pod is still flat and the peas have barely developed. Also known as snow pea or sugar pea. A sugar snap pea is more fully developed and rounder, but the pod can still be eaten.
The UK season is June to September, but supplies from other countries appear throughout much of the year. Frozen mangetouts can be found but, like all such vegetables, they will have been blanched and so need less cooking than fresh ones.
Choose the best
Being so young, the pods deteriorate very quickly. They should be green, rather than yellow, and not in the least flabby – they should break crisply and look moist. Also check for strings on either side; if these are prominent or seem tough, the pods have dried out.
Best eaten quickly. The ideal way to keep them crisp and fresh is to store them in the refrigerator in a roomy bag or box into which you have sprinkled a little water, which will then keep them in very good condition for days.
Ideally, mangetouts can be cooked just as they are and great care must be taken to serve them crisp and brightly coloured. Khaki-coloured, overcooked mangetouts cast a pall over everything else on a plate.
Unfortunately, the variety sold and the time of the year means you always have to check for strings. Pull back the stalk end to see if the string is developed and if so, you must string every one, both sides. If the strings are minor, you may eat them as they are.
An excellent ingredient to use in stir-fries when they can be cut in half diagonally, both for looks and for faster cooking. Otherwise, the microwave is by far the best way to enhance and enjoy their green, garden flavour. Cook covered with no added water other than any left after rinsing and shaking dry. Steaming quickly reduces their flavour and colour; boiling does the same, faster.
The sweetness of lightly cooked mangetout peas is especially good with all seafood (even in cocktails) and with fish, hot or cold. An interesting ingredient in salads, too.