Nothing says springtime quite like a bowl of peas.
Peas are definitely the hero of the season, all the nicer because fresh ones are only around for a short while. Sitting with a pile of pea pods in one’s lap quietly shelling them and scooping the tiny green treasures into a bowl is one of life’s little joys. Picking them right off the vine to pop into your mouth, is another. Peas are easy to grow and even if you only harvest a few, the flowers and delicate tendrils are edible too.
Make the most of the abundance right now – serve them for breakfast scrambled with some farmyard eggs and for lunch in a salad with creamy feta and fresh mint.
You can substitute the lettuce with linguini for a more substantial summery treat – drizzled with olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon, this really is one of the nicest ways to enjoy fresh peas.
New season peas are brilliant braised with lettuce – particularly useful to use up the lettuce in your garden that is starting to bolt now that the days are warming up. If you have a huge crop and start running out of ideas – blitz into a puree with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. A gorgeous, bright green gloop that is perfect to dip things into or make interesting canapés.
Howick pea grower and cyclist, Bridget Ringdahl, comments “I have such wonderful memories of podding the most delicious peas ever in Spiti valley in India – in fact, it was my favourite roadside snack ever – once we snacked a whole kg bag in one go! So utterly satisfying in every sense.”
Best time to plant peas is in autumn. If you grow heirloom, open pollinated varieties, it’s really easy to save seeds for next season. There are interesting yellow ones and pretty purple varieties available – although the peas inside are green, so add tiny whole pods to salads to enjoy the rich colour. All peas like to climb, even the dwarf varieties. They like growing near lettuce and radishes and really dislike onions of any sort. As they are the legume family, they also fix nitrogen in the soil, so make good green manures.
Peas seem both wonderfully old fashioned and seriously trendy at the same time. Do your bit for World Peas, check out the catalogues at Living Seeds or www.organicseed.co.za for a selection of peas to plant next season.