Traditionally, peas get planted on St. Patrick’s Day in our neck of the woods. They take about 80 days to harvest, which means they’ll be done in time to plant tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and other heat loving vegetables. Peas and beans also magically “fix” the nitrogen in the soil. There are little nodes that form on the fine root of the plant and they extract some nitrogen out of the air and then deposit it in earth, which is good, because every other type of vegetable eats up the nitrogen as they grow.
Peas come in three basic forms. Snow peas are eaten whole when the pea itself inside the pod is tiny. Think stir fry. Snap peas are eaten whole and the pea inside is big and full in the pod. Pod peas, my personal favorite, are big and plump and you pop them out of the pod before eating. These freeze really well, but I don’t think any of ours will make it into freezer bags.
In the picture above, you can see the apparatus we built for the peas to climb. If you are going to plant some yourselves, provide them some type of trellis – even though the seed packet won’t tell you to, which is an interesting omission.
We had way more peas than trellis space, so in the middle, underneath the teepees we planted the extras, with the intention of eating them as pea shoots. In retrospect, we probably should have staggered the planting of those to be eaten as shoots, so that we could extend how long we’d have them. Instead, we will throw some pea shoot-themed dinner party and devour them in one sitting.
I think peas are a perfect food, just on their own. I can eat them in any number of rustic preparations, but some chefs take their pea-love even farther than just butter, salt and pepper.
I had the pleasure of meeting Amy Eubanks, Chef de Cuisine at BLT Fish in New York City. She spoke at my school on her favorite raw fish preparations. Over cured arctic char, she sprinkled shelled peas, which she had skinned. Skinned! Not just removed from the pod, but slipped each pea out of its coat, something I appreciate in technique and OCD, but caused me to miss the dual mouthfeel that I associate with shelled peas, in its absence.
Plant your peas! If you have a fire escape, throw some in a pot or a bucket – they’ll use the iron rungs for support. If you’ve got a backyard or lawn, there’s no reason not to participate in the bounty of spring.