Last year, in 2012, we harvested our first sugar snap peas for Ma(i)son on May 31st. This year we harvested the first crop on June 13th. This difference in time of almost two weeks reveals why growing food can be a challenge. The growth cycle is a natural process subject to extremes of weather, pests and diseases, machinery breakdowns, and sometimes worn-down humans. But the challenges only make the successes that much more satisfying.
Freshly harvested Sugar Snap peas. Alex Wenger photos.
This week our peas are on the menu at Ma(i)son in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Literally.
In my never-ending quest for forgotten and underutilized foods, a few years ago I discovered that there was an heirloom variety of “golden” snow pea from India. Yes, “golden.”
From the moment that I first learned of this variety I knew that I had to grow it. Almost five years ago I received about one dozen seeds from Seed Saver’s Exchange. Unfortunately a picking accident destroyed my seed crop that year, setting this project back somewhat.
This year I was able to sow a large planting of golden snow peas and I harvested several pounds this week for the first time! I love the beautiful translucent yellow pods and every time I walk past the plants I find myself wondering who “discovered” the world’s first yellow-podded pea plant? Was it a chance mutation amidst a patch of green snow peas? Or, more likely, is this variety the result of carefully breeding and selection by farmers to develop its amazing color and intriguing flavor over the course of generations? I plan to continue this process by not only saving seed from this variety, but also by using it in crosses with purple-podded peas to try to create a stringless ruby-red snow pea.
When I delivered the first of these golden snow peas to Ma(i)son this week I learned that they are being used as part of scallop and crayfish creation, complete with four different types of peas from our gardens, green and yellow snow peas, shelling peas, and Chef Taylor’s favorite, the sugar snap peas. In fact, spring peas are featured throughout the menu from the burrata with housemade panchetta, peas, mint and sourdough bread – http://instagram.com/p/aPO8QiRA07/, to smashed pea crustini – http://instagram.com/p/awaFeOxA0a/
Peas are not the only late spring vegetables that we are harvesting en-mass. French breakfast radishes and Austrian “troutback” lettuce show off their colors.
Troutback lettuce looks like its namesake.
We’ve also been harvesting sylvetta, or “wild” arugula, all month. This species of arugula, known as Diplotaxis tenuifolia in Latin, is a perennial plant that forms a long fleshly taproot. The beautiful, deeply serrated leaves have a mild “kick” and a slightly different flavor than common “cultivated” arugula, Eruca sativa. Recently I learned that sylvetta is the most commonly grown arugula in France even though it is relatively unknown in the U.S.
Sylvetta arugula in flower.
We allow some of our plants to flower to produce seed for future plantings and to increase the biodiversity in our fields by providing a source of nectar that supports honeybees, native bees, and hoverflies, all of which are important pollinating insects.
Stay tuned for more updates, we have lots of exciting projects underway!