APPARENTLY THE WOODCHUCK HAD READ EMILY DICKINSON (“How luscious lies the pea within the pod“) and, feeling moved, lumbered down from the hill to have his way with them. So had the chipmunks, though they didn’t wait as long—they’ll devour seed straight out of the soil in March, before it sprouts. They’ll even dig for it, as the befuddled gardener stands looking at a row with no signs of life, wondering why: outdated seed; foul weather; kidnapping; or is there still hope? With all this competition, when do I get some peas around here this year? How I tried to avoid a recipe for disaster, and better yet: recipes from my foodie friends for peas, the crop sweetly straddling the cusp of spring-into-summer.
Pea Recipes from My Friends
This is the final installment of Spring Fling, a cross-blog recipe and tips swap about seasonal vegetables. Here are this week’s delicious entries:
Food2: Peas ‘ n Pasta: A Match Made in Heaven
What’s Gaby Cooking: Fresh Pea Risotto
White on Rice: Potato and Pea Salad
FN Dish: Spring Fling: Peas
I did what you are supposed to do, following the basics of how to grow peas:
I started early (“as soon as the soil can be worked,” the saying goes) around St. Patrick’s Day here in the north, but certainly by the end of the first week in April. Timing my sowing that early helps me avoid bumping into the increasing heat of an oncoming summer at harvest time, which begin 50ish to 60-something days later, depending on the variety.
I’d sprinkled the proper legume inoculant—a helpful bacteria that comes in powder form and helps peas and beans get going and produce well—onto the moistened seeds in a bowl before planting them, a powdered insurance policy, you might say. (All about legume inoculant.)
I didn’t use Nitrogen fertilizer, since peas, like other legumes, can “fix” all the N they need from the soil); fertilizing peas could have produced too much foliage at the expense of flowers and pods.
I’d made a wide, trench-like furrow as Jim Crockett’s Victory Garden books had taught me years ago—about 6 across and a few inches deep—and planted thickly, with the seeds about an inch apart in every direction throughout the trench. I’d covered them with an inch of soil that I then tamped down. Many people plant in bands just 3 inches wide, which is fine, too. The point: don’t plant just a single line of seeds when sowing peas. Order the biggest seed packet, and overdo it.
I had covered most of the bases on types of peas: Some for shelling (to pop out of their pods and into the freezer and later fold into risotto or pasta in the offseason); some snap types for eating fresh or cooked, pods and all; some snow peas (slimmer edible pods most often seen in Asian-style cooking). I’d even planted some ‘Dwarf Grey Sugar,’ with its beautiful purple flowers and luxuriant tendrils, for “garnish” use. The only class of pea I’d skipped: the ones you dry and make split-pea soup from. I had spaced my thick rows of dwarf varieties about 18 inches apart, and taller, trellised ones about 4 feet or slightly more between.
I’d planted both short and tall snap varieties, pairings like 2-foot-high ‘Sugar Ann’ and 6-foot ‘Sugar Snap,’ planning for a staggered harvest (the short produce about 10 days sooner, the tall keep on longer).
I’d erected a pea trellis for the latter of mesh hooked onto metal stakes; I’d mulched to keep the roots cool once the plants were well up.
I kept them watered.
Having followed these instructions, I did finally start to get pods—at least on the plants the woodchuck hadn’t shorn to near the ground before they even flowered, thwarting more than half the possible crop. Apparently, besides Dickinson, he has read the food blogs, too, and learned that pea shoots and tendrils and blossoms are all the rage in spring.
About two months before frost, in July, I will try it all again, though frankly I never do as well with a fall pea crop. Shading the row before and after sowing helps a bit to get the seeds going, but heat can last here well into fall–or frost can come early. Tricky.
This year, though, I’m counting on an advantage I didn’t have in spring: one fewer woodchuck. Yes, he and I are in not-so-polite discussions about the possibility of his moving on.
How to Participate in Spring Fling
HAVE A TIP OR RECIPE to share about peas, or one of the other spring farm- or garden-to-table crops on our Spring Fling lineup? Put it in the comments on my blog, and copy it onto the comments on all the participating blogs (listed above) so that the maximum number of people enjoy your idea. Links back to your own blog, or sites you love, are fine; they can be to older posts from your archives, if you’re not posting something new. The more the better! The schedule of weekly themes:
- Wednesday, April 20: Asparagus
- Wednesday, May 4: Rhubarb
- Wednesday, May 18: Artichokes
- Wednesday, June 1: Strawberries
- Wednesday, June 15: Peas
We will be back with a twice-monthly Summer Fest; schedule to come shortly!