Happy summer. Now that the steamy days of July are upon us, all the people who were complaining about how gloomy and cold this past winter was have something new to gripe about – the heat. They have yet to figure out that Mother Nature doesn’t take their opinion into account with her plans.
Myself, I have been watching for the pop-up garden stands that appear in the front yards of individuals who have planted a bit more than they can consume. As always, it will be the beefsteak tomatoes being sought for perfect BLT sandwiches, fancied up with bacon-ranch dressing instead of mayo. Pickling cucumbers will be high on the list, too. Thumb-sized and perfectly crisp after being brined with dill weed and mustard seeds.
Our household has been scouting the raspberry bushes behind our house. Plucking sweet, juicy berries from between thorns is becoming an art form. Our son, Sparky, just stands there with his mouth open like a baby bird, waiting for us to fill it with “boo-berries”. His purple stained face attests to his adoration of these treats. My legs attest to the thick coverage of poison ivy.
Mom presented me with a gift from her own small garden this week. A zip lock bag filled with green pods the size and length of my finger. Sweet garden peas. As a kid, I remember sitting on the porch swing, with a stockpot to the right, an empty bucket by my left foot, a mixing bowl in my lap and a five-gallon bucket of peas in front of me. I spent several days over the summer, picking, shelling and freezing pint boxes of peas. My green stained fingertips betrayed my activity. Nothing went to waste. Empty vines and hulls went to the pigs, while peas that fell to the porch deck were snatched up by gleeful birds or the rare chipmunk.
The night before, we filled plastic containers with water to make blocks of ice to shock the peas after they were blanched. The process was simple if not time consuming. Pick, shell, rinse, blanche, shock, drain and pack. The little waxed cardboard boxes holding pint bags of produce were neatly lined up with freezer tape indicating the contents and year before being packed into the chest freezer.
We always looked forward to the very first batch, but there never was quite enough to serve just plain peas, so the first picking was regularly combined with baby potatoes. Newly dug up with the skin so tender, you could scrub it off with a brush. These tiny potatoes and peas were simmered to fork tender and served with a buttery cream sauce. So simple and delicious.
I neither can grow peas to save my life nor can I find them at the farmers market. I would happily purchase a couple bushels of Wandos to process. I would sit in the porch swing and hull peas like the women in our family have for generations. Shell, rinse, blanche, shock, pack — and savor the tastes of summer.