Friday, June 8, 2012

Why I Garden: Sweet Pea Heaven

As I was working in my community garden plot this morning I realized that when I was growing up in the 60s/70s we were eating a lot more the way Michael Pollan & Co preach we should eat in terms of eating seasonally.

That wasn't because we were more enlightened (!) but because a lot of the foods we know can get year round for a reasonable price were only available in the supermarkets when they were in season.

Strawberries? They started in late spring. I think they may have come from Florida and other southern states as well as "local" ones from Jersey and the like, but we didn't eat them year round, except the frozen kind--and I do remember eating those. Blueberries? None from Chile in the winter at any price. The North Carolina ones may or may not have been the first, again, what I remember were the Jersey ones.

Corn? A rare summertime treat if we were on vacation or went out of the city. There may have been Florida corn, but my mother, raised in the country, wouldn't have eaten it--and truthfully, neither will I. If I can't grow it, it comes from the farmer's market.

And one of the biggest treats were what we called "peas in the pod". Just that--fresh peas that my brother and I fought over for the biggest share. We didn't cook them, just shelled them and ate them. They were supermarket peas and this was long before "sugar snap" types and they probably weren't that sweet, but we loved them.

Now one of the prime reasons I garden is the peas. They have to go in the ground early, and the DC area climate with its sudden intensive heat often means they don't succeed even if I do get them in on time.

But when they do succeed--ahh!

This year I didn't manage to get mine in until well after my usual St Patrick's Day goal. They didn't seem to sprout well, and then after figuring I'd get nothing, they did start coming up. 

I had to be away taking care of my parents in early May, but the plants thrived. Then we had a major heat wave--90 degree days--and I frantically managed to cover them with shade fabric. They survived.

And today, just as another heat wave is about to begin, I harvested all the plants. They won't last much longer anyway if it gets hot and I need the space for summer plants:

Nearly two pounds of lovely "Little Marvel" peas are now in my fridge. They are shelling peas, like the ones I used to savor in my childhood.

I am not going to cook these. I am going to shell them, one pod at a time, and pop the sweet little morsels in my mouth.

I will share them with my daughter JR, who also loves peas. I will invite the Man and SC to sample them.

No matter what else happens or doesn't happen in my garden this summer, I will feel as if I've been a success just for these!

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