Sunday, 17 July 2011

To pea or not to pea? I know it's corny but that is the question...

When I took on my allotment I was very clear that I would only be growing the vegetables which I enjoy eating. Top of that list (as it has been since my childhood) is the humble pea. Nothing, I thought, would persuade me otherwise.

The Old Guard at the lottie - the older men who have been gardening for years - grunted non-commitally at this or raised their eyebrows whilst muttering about the many and varied challenges of pea-husbandry. One fellow grower Jeff (who has since proved himself to be a useful advisor on many aspects of veg growing) went further, citing the need to feed them, keep them well watered, net them to keep the birds off, and pick regularly to prevent running to seed, concluding: "Seems alot of bother to me, just to put a few peas on your plate".

Not to be detered I ploughed on, not yet realising the value of Jeff's words of wisdom! In that first season peas were amongst the first seeds I bought, and they were allocated the first ground to be cleared. They were sowed and germinated. And then they disappeared. So I re-sowed and they germinated and eventually some plants got going. But boy did they struggle! I think in the end I only actually managed to pick about half-a-dozen pods and I have never bothered since.

This year, though, like many other growers before me I have decided that mange-tout or sugar-snap peas are the next best thing. (Thanks, Mum, for the tip!) I am growing them in pots in the garden. They are hooked up to an automatic watering system (no such luxuries available at the lottie...) so are getting regular, even, measured irrigation and they are loving it.
As ever, I have made mistakes - principally not giving them tall enough canes to support them. So the plants have had an almightly collapse which Him Indoors is non-too-impressed with (he does like a tidy garden - it is surprising that we get on at all!). But they have provided a plentiful supply of lovely, sweet, crisp pods as well as pea-shoots which taste even more like fresh peas than the real thing. We have enjoyed the pods raw in salads or just on their own as a snack, as well as in stir-fries and noodle dishes.

The kids think they are great and are almost as happy with a handful of these as they are with crisps and sweets. In their next menu appearance the pods will be a base for a fragrant South Indian style coconut curry flavoured with ginger, cardomom, cumin and corriander - perhaps a large enough batch to save some for the freezer. Imagine what a treat it would be to eat the flavours of high summer in the depths of winter. Sounds good to me!

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