Thursday, July 14, 2011


All of a sudden there is food to eat in the garden. As Toni at Backyard Feast wrote recently, we wait and we wait and then all of a sudden there's a glut and we're wondering what to do with it all. In our case, yesterday, it was the shelling peas.

After last year's pea debacle (mice eating the newly sown peas, mice moving around the re-sown peas, peas collapsing in a chaotic tangle, Miriam unable to tell snow/snap/shelling peas apart because the mice mixed them all up) I was determined to get it right this year. I was never a drill-sergeant kind of teacher, but man, did I keep those peas in order this year.

The snap peas (Sugar Ann) have been delicious, as usual. The snow peas (Dwarf Sugar Grey) were a mysterious no-show: they just didn't germinate, even after resowing. And the two or three that did manage to sprout were spindly, feeble, non-producers. But what I was really waiting for were the shelling peas (Strike). Last year, in all the pea confusion, I picked them too soon, got them mixed up with the other types, and then gave up. This year I have been watching them like a hawk, gently squeezing the fat pods, trying to gauge the size of the peas inside. I was determined to get it right. And then, all of a sudden, when I checked them yesterday they were ready. All of them.

So I picked and picked. Three and a half pounds worth. And then I did something I've always wanted to do: I sat in the swing on the verandah with a bowl of peas in my lap and shucked. I looked out at the garden and shucked. I listened to the birds and shucked. I thought about my life and shucked. It was marvellous. Tonight they're going to have a starring role in some risotto. Yum.

That's not the only food-first this year. We also managed to beat the birds to our cherries. We have three cherry trees in the orchard, two of which are old enough to produce more than a token smattering of fruit. The first spring we were here the cherries all fell off because we weren't careful enough about watering. Last spring we tended the trees faithfully but lost all the fruit to birds, waiting for the darn things to get ripe. This year we finally clued into the fact they are not the same cherries we both grew up eating - deep, ruby red in colour. They're Rainier cherries, which are a rosy blush colour when ripe. So now I look back on last year and imagine the cherries being ripe, but us too stupid to know it, and the birds all sitting around waiting politely for us to harvest our crop, then finally giving up and saying "Well, if they're not going to eat them . . ."

Not this year. This year we have a ladder permanently stationed by the cherry trees so we can nab those babies as soon as they're ripe. The other day Kim picked a whole lovely bowl full, and I would show them to you, but this is all that's left.

And remember that purple broccoli that had me confused? Well, I checked my records and it turns out I actually did order purple broccoli seeds (Santee is the variety). And it's sprouting broccoli, so it doesn't form big heads - it's more like broccoli rabe. And it is purple - definitely purple. And tasty, did I mention that? And best of all, it stays purple when it's cooked, unlike purple beans which turn the most unappetizing grey-green.

Maybe I just haven't been at this gardening business long enough, but it still amazes me that I can plant some little seeds and then a few months later have a garden that is full of food. Tasty, fresh, nutritious food. It fills me with glee.

Anyone have any good recipes to use what's ripe in the garden, that don't also call for a lot of other ingredients that aren't seasonal at all? Share, please!


Negerigeletschtempoit said...

What a pleasure of a post, Miriam!

The peas are so attractive that I just asked Gordon why don't we plant them. He said: "You have no idea what it is to shell them... it takes forever and ever, and ever, and you end up with a pint!"

I had not read your paragraph yet, and had to laugh of your description as you "shucked, shucked" them. I think it all depends on the way you do a job, don't you agree with me? I would have fun too.

The cherries must have been really good. Another good laugh at that picture. Good for Kim, smart lady!

I am so glad that you are both enjoying the fruits of your labour.

Flartus said...

Oh, I am so very jealous of your "all at once" pea harvest! I too enjoy shelling them, but never get to do it for more than 2 or 3 minutes at a time.

One of our favorite things to do with peas and broccoli is a quick pasta, with butter and parmesan as a "sauce." Or you could go with eggs--quiche or whatever the Italian version is that I can't remember the name of now! :) I don't think you need any cherry recipes; looks like you've got them taken care of.

Also, do you have any mint? Peas + mint = yummy!

backyardfeast said...

Congrats on the pea harvest! Isn't funny, though, how even nearby gardens can be so totally different. Our Dwarf Grey Sugar snow peas are the unbelievably vigorous, overwhelming ones, and my Sugar Anne's (much tastier!) were the no-show. But my Green Arrow shellies are ready to start seriously shucking...

And love the idea of purple broccoli that stays purple when you cook it! My purple Rosalind broccoli was ok, but I don't think I'll plant it again; the other varieties I had this year were tastier, though perhaps not as striking in the garden.

With all the snow peas, I've been eating a lot of stir fries with my broccoli and cabbage, but one of my fave shelled pea recipes is lightly steamed and then cooled, eaten as salad with spring onions and maybe basil. Good vinegary vinigrette, and some cheese or tuna and baguette...Yum!

Paula said...

I had a pea harvest recently. Steve went off to do some shopping for me and I sat at the kitchen table with a large enamel bowl and a glass of rose and shucked peas. The odd thing is that it moved me to say a rosary, which I haven't said in years, being a recovering catholic.

But for some reason, maybe it was the bead shape of the peas, maybe it was the repetition, maybe it was the rose, it felt really good to pray.

I have more peas to harvest, but they will be kept for seed and soup, being way past the fresh pea stage. But I froze five cups of peas that day, and they are in the freezer, waiting to be made into dinner.

Risotto sounds like a good idea.

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Hello Miriam!! I've not told you in awhile how much I enjoy coming to your blog and reading your posts--Each and every post is enjoyable to read and so interesting!! I wish we lived closer because I'd try to wrangle an invitation to dinner those peas look just scrumptious!!

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