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Guide to Pea Harvesting: When and How to Harvest Your Garden Grown Peas

by Sam DollFat garden peas in the shell.

How do you know it’s “officially” summer? Is it when the pool opens back up or your neighbors start grilling? For me, it doesn’t REALLY feel like summer until I can walk into my garden and eat a sweet snap pea off the vine!

While those pea pods are pretty tasty from the start, how do you know when the perfect time to pick them is? What if you want shelled peas, peas for stir fry, or even microgreens? We’ll help you figure out how and when to harvest your peas.

Garden Peas

Garden peas, also known as English or sweet peas, are the classic pea, great for side dishes or soups. While this pea can be eaten whole when it is young and tender, it shines brightest when shelled.

When harvesting garden peas to be shelled, check for the pod to be bright green and rounded. It should be slightly shiny and have no visible bumps. If the pods have bumps from the peas getting too large, the peas may be over-ripe and could be too starchy or mealy in texture.

We recommend our Green Arrow variety of garden peas. They have a high yield (8-11 peas per pod) and are good tender as well.

Snow Peas

Snow peas are recognizable for having flat pods with very small peas inside. They are mild and sweet and are almost exclusively eaten whole. Great eaten fresh or in stir fry, snow peas can be some of the most delightful crops in your garden.

Since snow peas are meant to be eaten whole, it is better to err on the early side when harvesting. The peas should be small and a little loose in the pod. If they go too long, the pods will become fibrous and the crop will lose most of its sweetness.

Snow peas are also great for growing microgreens due to their quick germination. The shoots are sweet, crunchy and delicious. Harvest them when they are about 2″ long and use them as a garnish, add them to sandwiches, or mix them in salads and soups.

The Oregon Sugar Pod II (long name, great plant) is the perfect sugar pod for everything from microgreens to stir-fry.

Snap Peas

Snap peas, or sugar snap peas, have a plump, edible pod that makes for a classic summer snack. A cross between garden peas and snow peas, snap peas are best as a sweet, light snack but can also be shelled or lightly cooked.

Like snow peas, they can be harvested as early as you want to and as long as the pods are rounded and shiny. If they lose their shine or the pod begins to bulge where the peas are, they have gone too long to eat whole, but can still be shelled and enjoyed!

The Sugar Ann is our favorite variety of snap pea

Some Notes

The more you pick, the more you get. It is best to keep harvesting peas as long as possible so you can get the maximum yield for your hard work.

When harvesting, use two hands to pick: one to hold the plant and the other to harvest. Peas are delicate plants and rough harvesting can do more harm than good.

Peas fix nitrogen in the soil which makes them best buds with corn. You can also plant your peas with bush beans, pole beans, carrots, celery, chicory, cucumber, eggplant, parsley, early potato, radish, spinach, strawberry, sweet pepper, tomatoes and turnips. Keep your peas away from chives, grapes, late potatoes and onions.

 

The Joy of Spinach

by Engrid WinslowSpinach, Organic Bloomsdale

There are two types of spinach available for eating:  flat leaf spinach is a smooth-leaved variety that is usually canned or frozen. Most of what gardeners grow is the sweeter savoy or curly leafed spinach. The leaves are wrinkled and are the ones used in pre-packaged spinach at the grocery store.  It is easy to start from seed, prefers cool temperatures and can be harvested as baby spinach or left to grow larger. There are hybrids that can tolerate more heat and combine the smooth and savoy-type leaf.

Does Spinach have other things going for it? Yes and YES! Spinach is high in carotenoids, which the body can turn into vitamin A. It packs a powerful punch of other vitamins and minerals including vitamins C, B6, B9, K1 and E, folic acid, calcium, potassium and magnesium.  It is also an excellent source of fiber and contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which are beneficial for eye health. Not to mention that spinach contains high amounts of nitrates, which may help regulate blood pressure levels. There are even studies showing that the antioxidants and other compounds in Spinach may suppress the growth of human cancer cells.

Best of all, Spinach is good raw and cooked.  There are so many ways to use it that it is almost miraculous. If someone says they don’t like Spinach, try sneaking it into meatloaf. In fact, Spinach can be “hidden” in soups, stews, scrambled eggs, quiche, lasagna, dips and smoothies.  It can stand alone when creamed, sautéed or made into a salad or swapped out for half of the basil to make a delicious pesto. It plays well with pasta, fruit such as strawberries, and cheese.  Endless possibilities.  Here are two recipes – one for the Spinach “lovers” and one for the (think they are) “haters”.

 

Puglia Sautéed Spinach

This recipe hails from Southern Italy where all manner of greens are very popular.  You can substitute Swiss Chard, Kale, Collards or even Chicory.  You can pile it on top of polenta, sip some Italian White wine, close your eyes and practice your Italian accent.

4 TBL olive oil                                                                     1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves chopped garlic                                                  14 oz. sliced Cremini mushrooms

10 oz. Spinach                                                                    ½ cup Pinot Grigio or other Italian White wine *

Salt and pepper                                                                   2 TBL Balsamic Vinegar

Fresh Italian parsley, Chopped

 

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in the oil until they soften and caramelize. Add the mushrooms, and fry for about 3 to 4 minutes. Toss in the spinach, and sauté stirring constantly until spinach is wilted.

Add the vinegar, stirring constantly until it is absorbed, then stir in the white wine. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until the wine has almost completely absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

*(or substitute vegetable or chicken stock, if desired)

 

VEGETABLE FRITTATA

¼ cup olive oil                                                                1 lb. potatoes*, cooked and sliced

1 small onion, very thinly sliced                                  1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly

1 clove minced garlic                                                      2 cups baby spinach

½ tsp. Salt                                                                        8 eggs, beaten

¼ tsp freshly ground pepper                                        3 TBL cubed butter

2 TBL thinly sliced basil

Turn on broiler. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic, pepper, and onion until soft, 3–4 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in sliced potatoes, the butter, salt, and pepper. Stir in half the basil and the eggs and reduce heat to medium; cook until golden on the bottom, 8–10 minutes. Broil until set and golden on top, about 3 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil.

*use any small, waxy fleshed potato – not baking potatoes

SUMMER HARVEST

by Engrid Winslow

At last, the bounty of your summer garden is at its peak and you can gather all of those glorious tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, corn, chard, kale, summer squash, onions and other vegetables to enjoy at their freshest and most flavorful. But, ahem, some of us may plant more than we can eat in a day. Well, whether that is planned excess or not, here are a few tricks for preserving that bounty using just your freezer and pantry.

Onions – When the tops flop over onto the ground it’s time to pull them out and let them dry out in the sun or inside in a cool, dry location. Some onions, such as cippolini, are great storage onions but for the ones that aren’t…Ever tried onion jam? How about bacon and onion jam. You can refrigerate them and use them up quickly or pop a few jars into the freezer for a festive addition to a holiday cheese platter. Here are the links to two delicious recipes you can try:

http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/onion-jam https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015978-bacon-onion-jam.

You’re welcome.

 

Corn – Shuck as much as you can and then flash boil for about 2 minutes. Let cool and then scrape off the kernels into a large bowl and scoop out two cups into a plastic bag or container for freezing. Add them to that turkey soup you make after Thanksgiving every year along with some of the frozen shell peas you harvested and froze in the spring.

Tomatoes – This technique works best with cherry tomatoes and is a little bit of trouble but OMG are these delicious. Add them to pizza, pasta, soups, sandwiches or serve on grilled bread as a quick crostini. The flavor of these will make you want to plant even more tomatoes next year. Heat oven to 200 degrees. Arrange cherry tomatoes on a lined, rimmed baking sheet, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Let them “oven dry” for up to 2 ½ hours, checking frequently at the two-hour mark. You can also do this with large tomatoes which will yield a “saucier” result.

 

Zucchini – Use small, tender-skinned, deep green ones. Shred and steam for 1-2 minutes. Freeze in desired quantities for adding to slaw, pasta, soups or your famous zucchini bread.

American Caprese Salad

From the Kitchen of Engrid Winslow

This quick and easy take on the classic Caprese salad makes excellent use of the fresh tomatoes from your garden. It’s especially pretty when you use a variety of colored, heirloom, beefsteak tomatoes such as Cherokee Purple, Aunt Ruby’s German Green and Yellow Brandywine.

Serves 4

1 TBL extra virgin olive oil
1 TBL honey
1 TBL white Balsamic vinegar (or you can use cider vinegar)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
4 sliced heirloom tomatoes
4 ounces sliced or crumbled Humboldt Fog or Maytag blue cheese
1 cup torn herbs – just basil or a mix of basil, chives, cilantro and parsley
Flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the honey, vinegar, Dijon and olive oil. Arrange tomatoes on a platter, drizzle with dressing and top with cheese and herbs. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.

PEPPERS STUFFED WITH CORN AND MANCHEGO

From the Kitchen of Engrid Winslow

You can use any type of sweet pepper for this recipe but I recommend that they be orange or red for the best flavor. You may have extra stuffing, depending on the size of your peppers.

Serves 4 as main dish or 8 as a side dish

½ cup diced onion
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 tsp. finely minced garlic
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 ½ cup grated Manchego cheese
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbs. chopped fresh Italian parsley
8 medium sized sweet red peppers
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 and oil a baking dish that will hold all of your stuffed peppers.
Sauté the onion until soft and then add the corn and garlic. Let cool, then add breadcrumbs, cheese, thyme, parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the pepper in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and membranes and rub the peppers with olive oil and place in the baking dish. Fill each half pepper with the corn mixture, pushing gently so the stuffing fills the pepper and stays in place.

Roast the peppers for 25-30 minutes, or until they soften and begin to collapse.

If serving as a main course, add a salad and a slice or two of French bread to round out your meal.

 

Pesto Secrets

From the kitchen of Engrid WinslowBasil

Pesto is a “secret summer sauce” because it is so flavorful, adaptable and can be frozen to bring back summer memories during the dark of winter.  Some of the best ways to use pesto are:

  • Tossed into hot or cold pasta, add other veggies, chicken and/or shrimp
  • Folded into scrambled eggs or as a filling for omelets
  • Drizzled over grilled chicken, pork, lamb or fish
  • Smeared onto ricotta-topped, toasted bread
  • Swirled into mashed potatoes
  • Drizzled on salads, roasted or grilled veggies
  • A topping for pizza
  • Spread onto sandwiches

The best tricks for getting the most flavor out of your pesto are: 1) toast nuts in an even layer in a skillet over medium heat or in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes (be sure to check often to prevent burning them).  You can keep leftover toasted nuts in the freezer so there are always some on hand.; (2) use a good quality extra virgin olive oil; 3) don’t overprocess the sauce – those flecks of texture are yummy; and 4) grate your cheese fresh by hand each time and mix it in at the end of processing.

Basic Basil Pesto Recipe

1/3 cup olive oil

1 ½ cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves

½ cup toasted pine nuts

2-4 cloves garlic, peeled

¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese

¼ tsp. kosher salt or fine sea salt

Optional:  2 tsp. lemon juice

Process all but cheese in a food processor, add additional olive oil if a thinner consistency is desired.

Endless variations

Try substituting any of the following for the basil:

Use flavored basil such as Cinnamon (also called Mexican Basil)

1 cup arugula, 1 cup mint

1 ½ cups spinach and ½ cup oregano

2 cups of baby greens, 2 Tbsp. thyme leaves

2 cups of broccoli raab

2 cups parsley (Italian flat leaf works best)

Substitute ½ of the basil with lemon balm

Use any of the following nuts in place of pine nuts:

Pecans (great with Parsley)

Hazelnuts (try with arugula and mint)

Walnuts (good with spinach)

Almonds (good with baby greens)

Swap out the Parmesan for Asiago or Manchego

 

 

 

 

How to Pick a Pea

By: Sandy Swegel

How to pick which one to grow, that is.

There are so many varieties of peas to choose from….which one shall we grow? Here are three peas with very good reasons to grow them.

For snow peas, the generally accepted superior variety is “Oregon Sugar Pod II.” Research trials have documented that Oregon Sugar Pod producers twice as many snow peas as other cultivars. And there’s a cool reason for that: Oregon Sugar Pods split and produce two peas at every growth node while other snow peas produce just one. And the “II” in Oregon Sugar Pod II? That refers to the fact that this evolution of the pea is disease resistant. So you get lots of peas and no powdery mildew.

Despite the obvious perfection of the Oregon Sugar Pod II, I also like to grow the Dwarf Grey Sugar. They taste about the same to me and I get lots of peas from the Dwarf Grey Sugar, but the real reason to have them is that they have purple flowers. All the other peas have white flowers. More Purple Flowers Please.

Finally, the third pea I’m enamored of is Sugar Ann…an heirloom edible Pod pea. No shucking or shelling…you eat the whole thing…pod and all. They are delicious steamed or sautéed but we rarely eat them that way. Any pea lover will attest: peas taste best fresh picked, while you’re still standing in the garden.

Do you want a secret to more peas in less space? Plant your peas (or thin) a little further apart—4 inches between plants. Research in Oklahoma showed those plants branch more and produce 23% more peas than plants 2 inches apart.

Whatever variety you choose…start them soon. All peas stop producing when the temperatures get up above 75 degrees.

Photo credit:

www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/snowpeas
theenchantedtree.blogspot.com/search?q=Pea
www.thekitchn.com/5-ways-to-eat-sugar-snap-peas-144936

Roasted Carrot Salad

From the Kitchen of Engrid Winslow

An exotic and super-easy salad that your whole family will enjoy.

Serves 4

4 carrots
2-3 Tangelos
2 oz. Castelvetrano olives
olive oil
salt
pepper

Preheat oven to 450. Peel carrots, cut crosswise into 2″ pieces, then lengthwise into 1/2″ thick batons. Toss carrots with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 8 minutes, stir, then roast for another 6-8 minutes until brown and tender. Set aside. While carrots are roasting, peel the tangelos, separate into segments and cut each segment in half. Remove and discard pits from olives and roughly chop. Toss carrots, tangelos and olives together and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

CARROT CAKE MUFFINS

Who doesn’t love Carrot Cake? Now you can have a less guilty version (no frosting) for breakfast.Scarlet Nantes Carrot

Carrot Cake Muffins (makes 12)

from the kitchen of Engrid Winslow

1 3/4 cup regular or gluten-free flour
2/3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Baking soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
Dash ground mace
1/2 cup crushed pineapple in juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla
2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 400 F and grease or line muffin tin cups. In a large bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and mace. In another bowl, stir together pineapple, carrots, oil, egg and vanilla. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add pineapple mixture and stir just enough to combine.

Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes before removing muffins from cups. Finish cooling on rack. Serve warm or completely cooled.

These muffins freeze well.

 

Three Wild and Spicy reasons to grow Wild Arugula

by Sandy Swegel

Wild arugula is my favorite spring green of the week and this year it’s the first thing I’ve seeded out into the garden during our warm spell.

Similar to regular arugula, wild arugula has a “wilder” taste and thinner leaf.  It looks quite like a mustard weed when young if you aren’t familiar with it.  Definitely a cool season crop as once the temps get to 80 wild arugula can be quite bitter.

It is very easy to grow, as mustards often are, and can handle less than ideal soil and water.  (Watch out…low water makes it even spicier.). I like to plant it somewhere it can establish itself as a perennial that I can just pick a few leaves now and then to add some zest to dinner.  But a Spring garden patch is essential to get cups and cups of the greens to use in making pesto.

 

So here are my three favorite wild and spicy reasons to grow wild arugula.

SPRING SALADS.  Arugula has a nutrient profile similar to other spring tonic herbs like dandelion and nettles, but I like the taste even better for salads or lightly steamed.

 

PESTO.  Wild arugula pesto is an absolute favorite.  Make it with garlic, olive oil, walnuts and Parmesan or goat cheese and you have a fantastic sauce for fettuccine noodles, topping for pizza or spread for appetizers.

POLLINATORS. Naturally, foods that are favorites of pollinators are favorites of mine.  Once summer sets in, wild arugula bolts and sends up tall tiny spiky yellow flowers that pollinators love.  I’ve seen all kinds of bees and butterflies snacking on the wild arugula flowers from summer through late fall.  I also snack on them….I like the flavor of arugula flowers even better than the leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credits

https://www.dherbs.com/articles/featured-articles/wild-arugula-pesto/

http://honest-food.net/arugula-pesto-recipe-pasta/

Wild Arugula; Delicious Low-Water Beauty