Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

  • True but Hard to Believe: ...from Tim Hamilton (marketing director at Homestead Gardens)...”Ladies Night at Homestead Gardens might have been the largest event that we have thrown in the garden center. We figure it was between 700 and 800 women”. Next year just look out!
  • Not only is spring busting out everywhere you turn but the programs, festivals, tastings events...for spring and our homegrown food proliferate the calendar. What to choose? Last Sunday I chose to attend and be part of the movie Fresh with a talk by Joel Salatin-progressive national farmer and spokesperson for the sustainable, small, ‘local’ farm and food produced with integrity. The quality movie is uplifting because it focuses on solutions and guess what-they taste great!
If you missed the first episode of Jamie Oliver's incredible "school
nutrition" show that takes place in Huntington, WV, you can watch it
on-line so you can see (formerly)Mr. Naked Chef in action if you don't know who that is. This is a full episode and runs for almost 45 minutes and sorry, (yawn) there is a commercial to start.
Now about growing and planting those peas-It's Time!
Spring Peas and a last Whisp of Winter


Serves 4

So I had a good ol’ winter rutabaga left from the winter crop which actually was beginning to sprout (so I cut off the sprouted end to plant) and julienned the golden vegetable to combine with the first sweet Asian style peas of spring. The lemon zest and juice enhance the sweetness of the rutabaga and make it zippy and light. The small size of the 3 different vegetables enables them to cook in under 10 minutes.


  • 1 medium rutabaga-about 3-inches in diameter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Zest of one lemon and 1 tablespoon juice
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, strings removed
  • 1 cup sno peas, strings removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 Peel the rutabaga and then slice the into rounds about ¼-inch thick, then into strips.

 In a medium saute pan heat a mere 1/4-inch of water until it bubbles. Add the olive oil to the water and then add the rutabagas and the lemon zest and juice. Cover and steam/cook for 3 minutes. Now add the sugar snap and sno peas and continue to cook without the lid until the peas are bright and still crisp. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Planting All Kinds of Peas

Still a garden favorite, peas are of  the first vegetables that you'll plant and harvest in spring. Not long after the snow melts from your garden, you can plant sno (or snow) pea seeds directly in the soil. Then just 60 or so days later, you'll be eating raw or flash-cooking them for one of the season's first taste of homegrown vegetables.

Soil preference: Early peas in particular like raised beds or a sandy loam soil that warms up quickly. Heavier soils can provide cooler conditions for a late pea crop, but you'll need to loosen the ground before planting by working in some organic matter.

Planting: Give peas a sunny spot protected from high winds. Later crops appreciate partial shade.

Fall planting: Some growers have success with fall pea crops by planting them where corn or pole beans will shade them until the weather cools.

Spacing: Space seeds of bush or drawf peas 1" apart in rows 2' apart. Sow early crop seeds 2" deep in light soil or 1" deep in heavy soil. Thin to 2"-3" apart. Plant vining types in double rows 6-8" apart on either side of 5'-6' tall supports.

Watering: Peas should never be water logged, but  don't let the soil dry out when peas are germinating or blooming or when pods are swelling. Once the plants are up, they only need about 1/2" water every week until they start to bloom; then, increase their water to 1" a week until the pods fill out.

Fertilizing: Peas supply their own nitrogen, so go easy on such fertilizers as manure. Too much nitrogen produces lush foliage but few peas.

Planting Fusion: To make good use of garden space, interplant peas with radishes, spinach, lettuce, or other early greens. Cucumbers and potatoes are good companion plants, but peas don't do well when planted near garlic or onions.

Pest Watch: Be on the lookout out for aphids, pea weevils, thrips. Crop rotation is one of the best ways to avoid persistent problems. Don't grow peas in the same spot more than once every five years.

AlertPlant resistant cultivars to avoid Fusarium wilt, which turns the plants yellow, then brown, and causes them to shrivel and die. Root rot fungi causes water-soaked areas or brown lesions to appear on the lower stems and roots. To avoid root rot, provide good fertility and good drainage for strong, rapid growth. Warm weather brings on powdery mildew, which covers the plant with a downy, white fungal coating. Sulfur dust if applied early can be effective or avoid powdery mildew by planting resistant culitvars.

HarvestingPods are ready to pick about three weeks after a plant blossoms, but check frequently to avoid harvesting late. You should harvest peas daily to catch them at their prime and to encourage vines to keep producing. Try to eat them immediately after harvesting; the sugar in peas turns to starch within a few hours after picking.

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