By Joy Johnson, Master Gardener
After a long, cool, but very dry spring, I’m finally getting out to the vegetable garden to plant some seeds. One of the vegetables I enjoy is pea pods. They are the perfect vegetable in my mind. You can pluck them right off the vine and eat them. I frequently do that when I’m pushing the mower next to my garden fence. They can also be steamed or dipped in tempura batter and fried. Any way you eat them, they are delicious and nutritious.
This spring I was disappointed in myself for not having planted them much earlier, even back in April. Here it was, the last week in May and I’m just heading out with my packet of pea pod seeds. I had spaded up the garden a couple of weeks earlier, working in the composted leaves, then raking it all smooth, ready for laying the drip irrigation and then planting. When I opened the garden gate and looked along the border fence, I was delighted to see two pea pod plants that had sprouted up on their own! And they already had pea pods on them, ready to eat! I immediately ate one. I had no idea that the seeds from some neglected pods could winter over, sprout and produce pods before I’d even put this year’s seeds in the ground.
I usually grow pea pods along the garden fence so they can climb up the fence. One year I stole an idea from a large potted arrangement I saw in downtown Minneapolis. They had made teepees from red twig dog wood branches and put them in large arrangements with spruce tips for winter interest along Nicollet Mall. I had recently trimmed my prolific smoke bushes and had an armload of 5-foot-long finger sized branches. I made teepees in the raised beds along the lake and planted peapods and cucumbers on them. They worked out well, but the teepees only lasted one season.
I have been looking for fun, new ways to prepare pea pods. Years ago, I lived in the Virgin Islands and enjoy Caribbean spices. Here’s a recipe for pea pods Caribbean style. This salad is very green. It reminds me of the children’s book, “Make Way for Ducklings”, when the mother duck tells her ducklings that, “green is good for the eyes”. In this case it’s also good for the palate. This is a lively, fresh tasting salad with an island spice flavor.
Smashed Cucumber and Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Jerk Vinaigrette
- 6 Persian cucumbers
- ½ pound sugar snap peas
- ¼ white onion, diced
- 1 scallion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 whole allspice berries, roughly smashed
- 3 cloves, roughly smashed
- 1½ teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon cane sugar
- Finely grated zest and juice of 2 limes
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- ⅓ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
- Trim ends of cucumbers. Place cucumbers in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to smash into irregular, large-bite-size pieces. In a big bowl, toss smashed cucumbers with a generous pinch of salt.
- Add snap peas to boiling water and blanch until bright green, about 1 minute. Strain and run under cold water to cool. Toss snap peas dry and transfer to refrigerator.
- Make the dressing: In a food processor or blender, purée onions, scallions, garlic, ginger, thyme, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, allspice, cloves, garam masala, sugar, a pinch of salt, lime zest and olive oil until smooth. Transfer dressing to a small pot and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until fragrant, 3-4 minutes. Pour warm dressing into a small bowl and place in freezer to cool. Once dressing reaches room temperature, after about 7 minutes, stir in lime juice and salt to taste.
- Drain cucumbers and pat dry. Clean bowl and return cucumbers to it. Add snap peas and toss in cooled dressing to lightly coat. Top with sesame seeds and cilantro leaves.
—Adapted from Rashida Holmes
A great beverage that makes use of another one of the garden’s early spring bounties is Rhubarb Punch. We served this at our wedding banquet back in the ‘80’s and are serving it again next weekend at our annual Garden Party, it’s delightful and refreshing.
To make the juice:
Cut 1 ½ pounds rhubarb into 1-inch chunks
To a large pot add 1-quart water and the cut-up rhubarb
Cook until very soft
Squeeze soft rhubarb through two layers of cheese cloth over a large empty pot
Add one cup of sugar, boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.
To make the punch:
Mix 1 ½ qt. rhubarb juice (from above) with ½ c. sugar, boil and then cool.
After it’s cool add: 1/3 c. orange juice, 4 Tbsp lemon juice, a pinch of salt.
Before serving add 1 qt. ginger ale or 7Up.