Kate Jerome is a horticulture instructor and the urban farm director at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

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Minding Your Peas
by Kate Jerome       #Recipes   #Vegetables   #Vines

‘Sugar Ann’ snap peas are among the earliest varieties to ripen.

What’s not to like about peas? The fresh green pods are the epitome of spring. That sweet burst of flavor that explodes in your mouth gives the nod to enjoy the cool spring days, which precede the warm days ahead. Peas are the perfect accompaniment to the sparkling greens of spring, and a quick stop at early farmers markets should give you all you need for delicious spring dining.

There are so many types of peas (Pisum sativum), from garden or English peas that must be shelled, to snap and snow peas with edible pods. If you are purchasing, make sure to ask the farmer which is which, so you know exactly how to prepare them. Since peas are so versatile and can be eaten fresh or cooked, there are a myriad of recipes to take advantage of the early harvest.


‘Super Sprint’ snap peas can be eaten in their entirety when the peas inside are young, or left to mature to produce a shelling pea.

Pod Types
Simply shelling garden peas or snapping edible pod peas and tossing them into salads will give you a burst of spring flavor.

Lightly cooked spring peas make a delectably sweet pureed soup when mixed with sautéed onions and garlic, and of course, a touch of fresh cream (or half and half).

Peas have a texture similar to avocado, so try processing fresh peas until smooth and adding to your favorite guacamole recipe. The sweetness of the peas is perfect with creamy avocados. The lime juice will keep the avocados as bright green as the peas and give a piquancy that delights the senses.

Grow Your Own
All types of peas need similar growing conditions and they are so easy to grow that it’s a waste not to get them in the ground every year. They finish their season early, so their garden space can be filled with summer vegetables, such as green beans or cucumbers.

Some pea varieties are compact, not growing much more than 2 feet, but others can produce vines that are 4-5 feet tall. And even though the seed package may say the peas don’t need support, putting them on a trellis or fencing will make them produce better and be much easier to pick. Branches from pruned trees or shrubs stuck in the ground make a great trellis.

‘Oregon Giant’ snow peas will keep producing well into summer, long after other peas have given up.


Green Pea Dip Bruschetta

Green pea bruschetta will make a surprising addition to your tapas bar. Easy- to-make, green pea puree serves well as a spread or dip for vegetables.

1 cup shelled garden peas(or thawed frozen peas)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh basil leaves (you can change the herbs to suit your taste)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pulse in a food processor until almost smooth, but with some texture. Serve as a dip for fresh vegetables or spread puree on toasted slices of French bread and top with a dollop crème fraiche, crumbled cooked bacon and a garnish of frisee or pea shoots.

Plant Early
Peas can be planted out in spring, a month before the last frost, and then again in late summer for harvest in fall. The earlier the start they get, the better they will produce, since they tend to shut down as soon as the weather gets hot.

Soak the pea seeds overnight to help with germination, and sprinkle the peas with legume inoculant, if you haven’t grown peas before. If you grow peas every year, take a shovelful of soil from the old planting site to inoculate the new planting bed.

Peas thrive in average garden soil that is well drained and rich with organic matter. Best of all, they need no fertilizer. Prepare your planting bed and poke the seeds 1 inch deep in a row about 2 inches apart on both sides of a trellis. When the peas appear, tuck about 2 inches of organic mulch around the plants. As they grow, gently direct the vines onto the trellis. The plants will do the rest.

Harvest daily. Pick garden peas when the pods are plump and shiny. Pick snow peas when the peas inside are just beginning to show, and snap peas when they are plump, but not bumpy with mature peas inside. If you make it to the kitchen with any peas that aren’t eaten along the way, refrigerate immediately to stop the sugars from turning to starch. Blanch and freeze what you cannot eat in a couple of days.

Peas are beautiful when used as ornamentals, too, such as ‘Blue Pod’ peas and ‘Swiss Giant’ snow peas, which have lavender flowers.


Pea Shoots

Pea shoots are a delicious, healthy addition to salads and soups.

Leftover pea seeds from last year? Since it’s a good idea to start your outdoor pea crop with new seeds each year, use these extra pea seeds to make a delectable crop of vitamin-packed pea shoots.

First make sure the pea seeds have not been treated with a fungicide (it will say so on the seed packet). Next, soak the peas overnight in warm water.

Get a flat tray ready with 1 inch or so of sterile potting soil. A flat that annuals come in from the garden center works well, because it has drainage holes. Make sure to put a tray underneath to catch the drips.

Gently moisten the soil and sprinkle the surface with the soaked peas. They can be quite crowded, since you are not growing them to maturity. Don’t poke down into the soil and don’t cover with more soil. This will slow down germination.

Cover the flat with another flat, a roasting pan or something to keep the humidity high. Check daily. Once the seeds germinate, remove the cover and move into the light.

You can start harvesting when the shoots are 3-4 inches tall. It will take about three to four weeks to get to this size. If they get much taller, they tend to get tougher.

Snip the shoots close to the seed, gently wash and refrigerate. You may be able to get a second growth, but this is not always successful. Then, put the seed and roots into the compost bin and start again with new seeds and fresh soil.


A version of this article appeared in March/April 2016 print edition of State-by-State Gardening.
Photography courtesy of Kate Jerome and Johnny’s Selected Seeds.


Posted: 05/02/17   RSS | Print


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