Harvesting Spring and Sowing Summer Peas

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The Last of the Spring, the First of the Summer

Can anything taste better than new peas? When the first infant peas come to the table, they melt in the mouth and taste like angel food. Though my spring peas are almost done, the summer peas are coming on nicely, thanks to our continuing cool nights. I plant my summer peas where they get full morning sun and some afternoon shade, which seems to help stretch their season a bit.

I like to harvest every few days to get small and tender peas, quite unlike the tough, mealy marbles they can become by later in the summer. In a way, I feel blessed that this slow, late summer has allowed us to enjoy early peas and greens a lot longer than usual. Now that the heat seems to be arriving for real, I’m switching away from snow peas and sugar snaps to the meatier Oregon peas that do much better in warm weather and make delicious soup.

Stir-fry Those Baby Peas

Peas and mint are a classic match in many countries, from England to Italy. This lively stir fry of fresh peas and shrimp with mint and garlic tastes great over rice or with pasta, so try it both ways to see which you prefer.

Stir-fry of Fresh Peas and Shrimp With Mint and Garlic

1-1/2 cups raw short grain brown  rice
2 teaspoons canola or rice oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 inches fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
2 cups raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 cup fresh peas (in pods or shelled)
2 cups bok choy OR Chinese cabbage, thinly sliced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sanbai-su
OR 2 teaspoons each rice vinegar and soy sauce

Cook rice according to package directions. When rice is nearly done, begin stir fry: In a wok or large frying pan, combine oils over medium high heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook until pale golden (1-2 minutes). Add shrimp and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Add peas and cook, stirring often for 2 minutes. Add bok choy, green onions, and pepper and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with sanbai-su or vinegar and soy sauce. Serve at once, over rice. Serves four.

Italian Peas and Pasta

This sturdy Italian spring dish partners new peas with fresh herbs and pasta for a lovely lunch or dinner entree. Rosemary, thyme, and parsley are traditional with peas, but you can also use lemon balm, chives, and fennel or dill for a pleasant change.

Italian Pasta and Peas with Fresh Herbs

8 ounces shell or bowtie pasta
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups fresh peas (shelled)
1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons flat Italian parsley, stemmed
1/2 cup basil, shredded
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated hard cheese such as Romano or pecorino

Cook pasta according to package directions. When pasta is nearly done, put oil in a large saucepan over medium heat with lemon rind and garlic and cook until garlic is pale golden (2 minutes). Add peas, cover pan and cook until peas are barely tender (2-3 minutes). Add herbs, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover pan and remove from heat. Drain hot pasta and toss with half the cheese, the peas and herbed oil, and salt and lemon juice to taste (start with 1 teaspoon juice). Serve at once, garnished with remaining cheese. Serves four.

Snow Peas For Savor And Snap

Snow peas have the best crunch and savory sweetness, so I always sow a late summer crop in August as well as early ones starting in March. (In cold summers, you can sometimes get away with sowing snow peas every other week all summer long; silver lining department!) Any of the fresh mushrooms now available partner well with snow peas, so try several kinds to see which tickle your fancy.

Snow Peas With Brown Field Mushrooms

1-1/2 cups raw basmati rice
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 cups fresh snow peas, stemmed
4 cups brown field mushrooms (or shiitake), thickly sliced
1 tablespoon umeboshi (pickled plum juice) or ponzu vinegar
4 green onions, thinly sliced

Cook rice according to package directions. When rice is nearly done,  heat oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook until golden (1-2 minutes). Add peas and mushrooms and cook, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with umeboshi or ponzu vinegar, cover pan and let stand for 1 minute, then serve over rice, garnished with green onions. Serves four.

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