The groundhog and groundfrog (if you’re in Snohomish) have spoken—we’re going to have an early spring. And what better way to herald the coming of sunshine and warm days than starting those veggies in the garden? There’s an old wives’ tale that you’re to plant peas on President’s Day, but if anyone was around on February 15, you probably weren’t in your garden in the driving rain. So as things lighten up this week, let’s get planting!
Growing dinner from seed is so satisfying—what starts as an unpromising little husk turns into the standout in a great pasta dish, or a great side to Easter ham. Peas are particularly satisfying, as they come in with such abundance. Finding good seeds is easy: Haggen, Fred Meyer, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Albertson’s will all begin displaying seeds packs on racks. For greater variety and more heirloom stock, try Garden Spot in Whatcom or Christianson’s Nursery and Greenhouse in Skagit. The advantage with a nursery is expertise—they can put the best advice and right tools in your hands. It’s also exciting and inspiring to see what other amazing plants and veggies you can cultivate as you stroll around feeling cool with your brand-new trowel.
There are all sorts of helpful planting guides from the South, but this is a favorite of mine: “There’s them’s that climbs and them’s that sets, but jus’ ‘member good not to get ‘ems wets.” In other words, there are climbing peas, bush peas, and whichever you choose, it’s good not to soak them on the vine when watering. There are lots of varieties of peas, from sugar snap peas—which are delicious right off the vine, shell and all—to shelling peas like English peas, and shelled peas like Asian snow peas. Go crazy! Plant as many as you like! They all grow beautifully here in our area.
Peas that grow on vines will need support, and you can find lots of examples of creative and interesting ways gardeners support their climbers, from strings to stakes to trellises. Bush peas are low maintenance, and all peas like rich soil with soil that drains well. Their watering needs are pretty easy until summer really heats up.
And here’s the fun part—after a couple of months, you should start to have pods. Watch them grow, fatten, and mature, and be sure to pull a few off for a taste test. Once they are mature, harvest, harvest, harvest. The more you harvest, the more new pods will grow in their place.
Recipe from foodandwine.com
Orecchiette with Peas and Pancetta
1 pound orecchiette
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (about 5 ounces)
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons snipped chives
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet. Add the pancetta and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeño and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the peas and toss to coat. Add the pasta along with the reserved pasta water and the cheese. Season generously with pepper and cook over moderately high heat until the sauce is thick and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chives, parsley and mint and serve right away.