2016-06-09 / From The Garden

Give Peas a Chance

By Cynthia Gibson


Snow, snap, and garden peas are all climbing plants and members of the legume family. Snow, snap, and garden peas are all climbing plants and members of the legume family. The next two weeks are prime time for picking cool season vegetables. June is known for its fluctuating temperatures–from the 50s to the 80s–but the cooler temps seem to rule the month. June rains keep the soil cool as well.

The best cool-season crops are snap peas, mange-tout peas, and Popeye’s favorite, spinach. If planted from seed in April, these vegetables are ripe for harvest right now. Spinach also loves cool to cold temperatures, and is perfect this time of year. Once the temperatures rise, it will get very tough, stringy and bitter– a bit like kale.

The best way to pick spinach is not to pick it at all. Use a pair of scissors. There are cut-and-come-again varieties that are excellent to grow, and now is the time to cut them. Should you have an abundance of spinach in your garden this year, it is easy to blanch, chop, put into bags, and pop into the freezer to enjoy later.

Peas are an elegant vegetable and recipes abound to celebrate them. They grow quickly and bring nothing but satisfaction. There are climbing peas and bush peas; the former needs a trellis or string to climb and the latter does not. Both love rich, well-drained soil.

On a breezy afternoon, sit outside and shell fresh peas for dinner. The small fingers of a child take great pleasure in learning how to perform this task. But once children figure out that fresh peas–the prize inside the pod–are filled with sugar, only about every other shelled pea will make it into the bowl.

The favorites are the mange-tout, or “eat it all” variety. Common in Chinese and Asian cooking, the mange-touts are also known as snow peas. They, too, are very sweet and when steamed, very tender. What is great about this pea is the crunch, and the sweetness when eaten raw.

Snap peas or sugar peas are a cross between mange-tout and garden peas. The larger peas for shelling have a natural string on the pea pod that acts a bit like a zipper. Shelling peas are also totally edible; however, the pod is tough and crunchy. Dispose of the string, as it is almost indigestible.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

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