Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Peas on Earth: I like peas. I like frozen peas, by preference Birds Eye, but I especially like peas fresh from the pod or, if their young enough and slim enough, peas, pod and all. It wasn’t always so. When I was a little boy (see photo below) I liked some peas but didn’t like others. My maternal grandparents had a large established garden. I can’t remember whether they actually grew vegetables but I do remember that if we were going to eat peas for dinner, then a metal colander came out and we sat outside and shelled them from their pods. A bit like pick-your-own strawberries: the sweetest ones are the ones you eat there and then and I ate plenty. Cooked, they weren’t so interesting.

It’s no secret that when vegetables are picked their sugar starts turning to starch. So, if you have the pan of water boiling before you pick a sweet corn, and then blanch it immediately after cutting, then do nothing more than scrape a large knife-ful of salty butter along it and grind some black pepper over it, you’ll understand why it’s called sweet-corn.

• If you don’t like peas then you tend to eat everything on the plate apart from the peas.
• If you have to eat the peas then smashing them up with potatoes and smothering the mix in gravy is helpful.
• If rule one applies then you can’t apply rule two.
• If you don’t like warm peas, sitting in front of a plateful of cold peas and being told that you can’t leave the table until they’re eaten up isn’t much fun at all. Look at the picture again and ask yourself if you’d make this boy eat cold cooked peas. (I hope my parents get to read this!)

This week was pea harvest time. Gabrielle had planted two varieties, Sugar Pea Norli (the true French green mange tout) and Alderman (a variety from 1891, one of the last tall peas available) both bought from Garden Organic. We’ve been picking the biggest for a while but, all of a sudden, they were ready to harvest and in danger of going over and becoming dry. Seeing her sat outside, shelling peas evoked some very happy memories for me. We’ve eaten plenty raw—either grazing in the vegetable patch or mixed into one of Gabrielle’s flower salads—and we’ve cooked some fresh ones but we’re not sure we’ve cracked how to blanch and freeze them yet.

There is a happy ending to this story: the boy doesn’t smoke and does eat his peas now (but he’s also 47 and has lost most of his hair). Next blog: I’ll begin explaining the long process of designing our straw bale house, starting with Sun Path Diagrams.
(peas picture credit)