Friday 9 July 2010

Harvest Snow Peas & Look out for Fairies!

Picking Snow peas is one of my secret joys in the garden at the moment. There is something about seeking out these delightful little green pods from behind leaves and stems and then reaching out to snap them off that makes me feel childishly nostalgic.

Or perhaps its the soft lilac pink flowers - so delicate and pretty that they conjure up images of little fairies dancing around our garden playing their own little game of hide and seek. Sometime gardening isn't all about hard work and labour and sowing for produce, there are moments, fleeting as they may be, that are simply about awesome beauty and elegance that the wonder of nature brings. Oh all right! I know they are just peas, but up until recently, I didn't even realise that peas came from pretty little flowers. And you might think that as very odd, but probably rings true for a large number of people who didn't grow up in 'pea-growing' nations.

To grow Snow Peas (Mange Tout or 荷兰豆 pronounced hé lán dòu), you will need to get your hands on some Snow Pea seedlings, plant them in with some good compost, and then, make sure you provide some support for them in the form of canes. Water daily, and in turn they will reward you with a mountain of tasty, crisp green pods.

Our seedlings went into the ground mid April, the same time as our Pak Choi. The plants took about two months before they reached about 5 ft in height, with the first flowers arriving on June 16th. A few days later, my little flower fairies' had disapeared and with a stroke of their magic wands left me a wonderful gift of crunchy green pods.

(L) Snow Peas growing behind Pak Choi in the Chinese wing (R) Look carefully for these crunchy pods
It made me smile.

The pods arrived slowly at first, three or four every few days, but just this last week, we are getting peas almost every day. Yesterday I picked twenty pods and this morning, there were already six new ones. And as the saying goes for peas, the more you pick, the more productive the plants will be, so its best to harvest every day.

So what do you do with the Snow Peas?
For Asian style stir-fries, Snow Peas taste best when they are small, not tiny, but whilst the seeds inside are small and immature. Sometimes you miss a pod that is hidden up the back and by the time you notice it, it will have already turned into a monstrous giant. Whilst still edible, they can be a little stringy so its probably wise to de-string them by snapping the top and then stripping the string down each side.
(L) Caramelised Soy Fried Rice with Cavolo Nero and Snow Peas, all from our garden (R) Sauteed Snow Peas with dried shrimp and garlic
The simplest way to cook Snow Peas, is to sautee them with a little oil, garlic and salt to taste. Once they have turned a glossy green (and you will see this as it happens), you can serve them up. Best eaten with a little crunch, so be kind, do not cook them to death.

You won't always pick enough peas to warrant an individual dish, so why not harvest all the bits and bobs you have in your garden and serve up Fried Rice? I am using "Cavolo Nero" which is a Tuscan dark leafy kale as a substitute for Chinese Brocolli (Kai Lan, Gai Lan) and have thrown in some Snow Peas for added crunch to make a delicious Malaysian style Fried Rice.

Seeds: Grown from seedlings bought at our local garden centre
Compost: Vegetable Compost (Organic & Peat Free) from New Horizon
Growing: I planted the seedlings outdoors mid April
Harvest: Mid June (so, approximately 8 weeks)
Pests: I did not encounter any. Slugs occasionally ate the leaves at the bottom of the plant, but I wasn't too bothered by this.

Note: After this post was published, we have had Blackfly.
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