Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Peas and a Radio Show

On Saturday I got to talk as a phone-in guest for about 15 minutes on the show America's Home Grown Veggies Hour on Sandy Springs Radio (at the top, select programs, then weekly, then Saturday to find an archived copy). I enjoyed talking about my garden with Kate Copley, the host, who also had Chef Anna as a guest. After my 15 minutes, Anna and Kate talked for a while about cooking with food from farmers’ markets and from gardens. The food segment was great to listen to, but it made me hungry!

One crop I had mentioned as doing well in this cool weather was peas. After I hung up, there was some speculation as to what, exactly, kind of peas I was growing. It was mentioned that the sensible choice would be to grow edible-pod peas like sugar snaps or snow peas, because this would provide the most food for the least work.

This strategy makes excellent sense and would definitely be a smart thing to do. However, there are all kinds of sense in the world, and in one version of “making sense” I have managed to rationalize the growing of English peas in my little garden, which is currently home to a six foot row of them. It produces about half to three-quarters of a cup of shelled peas every two or three days. This will continue for two or three weeks, and then pea season will be over.

The question, then, is what do I do with my tiny harvest of peas? So far this year, they have been added to pasta salad, curried vegetables, and a stir-fry (getting them from bowl to mouth with chopsticks was a challenge!). I’ve also had a half-cup serving just plain, with lunch, because I really like garden-fresh English peas.

If I have picked peas in the morning, I shell them right away and just blanch them in a little boiling water for a minute or two to preserve the sweetness and flavor. If they are going to be added to something for supper, the peas then get stored in the fridge until cooking time and then tossed into the main dish at the last minute. If the peas are to be eaten plain, they don’t get cooked any more unless I want them hot, and then they just get re-heated, which I think doesn’t really count as cooking.

The small quantities mean that I never have a big serving of just peas, but they also mean that I don’t have to sit for hours shelling them out. My family gets a little more variety in their diets, and I get the emotional boost of having my garden produce one more kind of vegetable at a time of year when the seasons are changing over. I know, I would get all these benefits from sugar snaps or snow peas, but (one more time!) I really like garden-fresh English peas!

This is one of the greatest features of gardening: every garden reflects the tastes (or idiosyncrasies?) of the gardener. Other people will love those sugar snaps or snow peas and, planting them, have the bigger harvest. I don’t worry about the possible waste of my limited garden space for English peas, though, partly because the trellis they are currently climbing will soon be overtaken by the slicing cucumbers that are planted about a foot away.

For the last three years, I have been growing the variety Miragreen, purchased from Fedco Seeds. For the last two years, the seed growers who provide Miragreen to Fedco have had some problems with the crop, so new seed has been unavailable. I used up the last of the seed in my packet this Spring, but if it isn’t available again in 2010, I won’t panic. I’ve grown the variety Wando before, and it worked just fine. Wando is available from many sources and shouldn’t be hard to find again.

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