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Spending Spring

June 16, 2014

Spring foods always seem to come a bit closer to summer than spring. It’s always a bit frustrating, but it does make sense. Plants need time to grow. And you can’t rush nature.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Of course, you can rush nature. That’s where all of those hormones and antibiotics used for quick growth of livestock come into play. Let’s just say that one shouldn’t rush nature.

Great rewards come to those who wait.

Some of those rewards come in the form of seasonal produce, enjoyed at the peak of the season. It’s especially exciting if you happen to eat seasonally the rest of the year and abstain from lesser versions of these foods that are grown in greenhouses or shipped halfway around the world. Even with a global supply chain, there are just some things that are only available for a very short window every year.

There are plenty of people who get excited by the first ramps, fiddleheads, and garlic scapes of the season. I can’t blame them. After months of ice and snow, these are among the first edible forms of life to spring from the earth.

For me the glory of spring is found a few weeks later, but if you blink you might miss it. And as I learned last week, they are worth almost any price.

Peas are actually available all year, and our family enjoys them in many ways. Dried green peas are at the heart of my split pea soup which helps us get through the doldrums of deep deep winter. Frozen petite sweet peas from Trader Joe’s are also a staple in our house. It’s one of the green vegetables I can get the kids to eat without fuss, and they are very easy to sneak into a batch of fried rice, or toss into a creamy cheesy pasta dish. They are also a fun addition to those Indian spiced potatoes I seem to be making more frequently these days.

But all of these pale in comparison to the real thing. I’m talking about peas in their pods.

The first time the woman who would become Mrs. Fussy visited me in California, we stopped at a roadside produce stand. She was thrilled to find they had shell peas. It must have been later in the season as the pods were thick and mature. She bought a huge bag of them, and together with Raf and ADS we shelled those peas for her to use in a batch of chicken and dumplings.

Sure, our haul and all of our efforts may have only yielded a couple cups of peas, but they were incredible. And with that, Mrs. Fussy had earned the respect of my closest friends. Well played.

Last Friday, I got the tip via Facebook that one of the farms down the street from me, Z Food Farm, had the first peas of the season.

Fresh young peas are different from their more mature cousins in that their shells are crisp, delicate and sweet. You can just eat the whole thing. Pop it right in your mouth. And it’s fantastic. To me, it’s the sweet taste of spring that I’ve longed for all winter.

At the farm, small cartons of the peapods were selling for $4 and there was a limit of two. I wasn’t sure that two would be enough for our purposes, but two was all we could get. Sometimes it’s good to have limits. Otherwise I might have spent all of our money on peas.

When I got them home and weighed out our haul, just for kicks I ran the numbers. These peas came in around $13 per pound.

Let’s contextualize that a bit. I could get two pounds of organic chicken thighs at Wegmans for less than those two small containers of peas. Organic dried split peas at Whole Foods are only two dollars a pound, so for eight dollars I could have had enough to make two massive batches of a hearty stew. Instead, what I ended up with served as a side dish to our weekly roast chicken.

And they were fantastic.

It’s moments like these when I truly miss having the CSA. These little luxuries feel less indulgent when the price of every individual item is obscured in the week’s haul of seasonal produce.

But paying a lot for these little green gems also served to make them special. With only a two carton limit, we needed to save most of them for dinner. So the kids were only allowed to sneak one raw pod from our stash as a little sweet snack when we got home.

For dinner, I prepared them super simply. I heated up a cast iron skillet, put down some decent olive oil, and cooked them on one side only until their pod picked up a bit of color. Sprinkle of salt, and voila. We picked these glistening, pan-kissed beauties up with our fingers and enjoyed the heck out of them.

Because it’s entirely possible next week the shells may be tough and bitter. So for the price of just a street taco per person, we were able to enjoy one of the greatest tastes that spring has to offer.

Finding value in foods is all about how you look at it. Yes, I understand that not everyone can afford such luxuries, and I’m thankful to be able to buy such things. But it’s also about making choices.

Wherever you are, I hope there are still good peas to be found. If not, there is always next year.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2014 11:09 am

    Pears are probably one of the easiest veggies to grow. Spend 2 bucks, stick some peas in the ground, and then you can stuff your gob with peas at your leisure.

    • June 16, 2014 12:08 pm

      Know thyself.

      Neither plants nor animals can survive my care. I couldn’t grow rosemary in Berkeley, which is amazing, because rosemary grows like a weed in that part of the world. Seriously, I’m not joking. If you ever need any, just take a walk down almost any street and there is plenty for the taking.

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