SWEET PEA

It’s a term of endearment here in the United States. “Ah, my little sweet pea, I love you so much!”

But in my case, it’s very literal. I LOVE sweet peas, what are sometimes called shell peas, or English peas, or peas-in-the-pod. When I was small, it was the biggest treat my mother could bring home from the fruit-and-vegetable store, a big pile of fresh green peas in their pods, ready to shell and share, one for the pot, one for me. It seemed like springtime was always a delicious season of sweet peas.

But for decades and decades, I don’t know what happened, but sweet peas disappeared. Too short a season to be profitable? Too much labor to pick? I don’t know. All I know is I had to get my sweet peas poured from a frozen package. Better than nothing, I guess, but still, not really good enough.

Until this very morning. Local strawberries are just in, so I drove up the road to the farm stand to get a basket for dessert this evening, and guess what I found! Well, I signaled it. You’re right, I found sweet peas.

Peas in the Shell

I bought a basket, of course, and brought them home, and showed my treasure to the Hub. Within a matter of minutes, the pile of peas was reduced to this:

Only pods are left

Only the pods were left. The lovely small sweet peas were already just a memory.

One perfect pod

But I did refrain long enough to snap one perfect pod.

How long is their season? If it’s a couple of days, it’s a long time. Global warming, global cooling, global perversity: whatever, it’s wreaked havoc on the sweet peas. This morning was thrilling, in that aesthetic Japanese way of aware, the ephemeral nature of a phenomenon making it all the more precious. So I am aware that this morning was a very special morning, a revisiting of beloved sweet peas and youth and innocence.

Now I must comfort myself with strawberries.

Comfort me with strawberries

Hey, they’re locally grown, fresh from the strawberry patch, large and luscious and ripe and red —  With a little crême fraîche — I think it will work as consolation!

NB: Here is the consolatory dessert — not bad, eh?

Strawberries and Creme Fraiche

Do you remember some vegetable or fruit that was a special treat when you were young? Is it still available, or only a memory?

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This entry was posted in Etcetera, Food, Happiness, Memory, Pioneer Valley, Spring and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

82 Responses to SWEET PEA

  1. franhunne4u says:

    I loved to take those peas from the pod as a child. Grandma planted them in her garden. Not every year, financially it was no gain and she gave those up. But the lovely taste stays with me. Same for our own carrots: I munched carrots the moment I had teeth to shred them. And loads of those – I had a very brown face as a toddler. No they were not chopped into sticks, they came straight out of the soil, were soaked under the garden water tap – and given to me. I hardly remember that myself, but my grandma used to tell that to me, and how many I ate.
    I did not love cucumber or peppers, as I ate (and still do) those “for a longer time” (the taste used to come back – and it was not welcome) – and I hated onions. But carrots and peas – loved them.
    Later our homegrown radishes were welcome on summer evenings. Slice of bread, some butter spread on it, a radish cut in slices and spread on the bread, some salt over that – mmmh.
    Sweet peas I have never seen in a supermarket – only ever homegrown. Have no garden myself, can’t do it. Thank you for bringing up sweet memories.

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      What wonderful memories, Fran! Of the peas, of the garden, of your grandmother, all.
      Your description of the radishes makes my mouth water. I still love them, but good ones have become hard to find.
      Cucumbers don’t “repeat” on me, so I like those too. After your telling about the carrots, I will have to give them another try at one of the many farmers’ markets here. The ones from the supermarket are not so great! And like it is with you, you never find sweet peas there.
      Thanks for your visit 🙂

      Like

  2. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Everything tasted better when I was a kid, things were produced locally instead non seasonal stuff being shipped 5000 miles around the world. The peas though, I think they’ve been replaced by those upstarts, mange tout and sugar snaps!

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      I think you’re right on both counts, Gilly. Food, especially vegetables and fruit, was much more local and seasonal, and it did have more flavor. And it’s true, you can get the sugar snaps all the time in the supermarket. They’re not bad, in fact, they’re pretty good. But they are definitely NOT sweet peas. Glad we both have our memories!

      Like

  3. I miss the varieties of apples that used to be common in most grocery stores. Now, if one asks for a Winesap or a Jonathan, the produce people say they’ve never heard of them. Too bad. They’re mostly one with the wind like sweet peas.

    Malcolm

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      I’m sure that’s true many many places. We’re lucky living here in Western MA. There’s a strong Eat Local movement, and one of the (not so many) abundant local crops are apples. So we get more of a variety than most places, and even have a few stores that carry heirloom varieties I’ve only read about in old books! You’d love it here in the fall and winter!
      This time of year, the apples of last season have run out and the new crop won’t be in till the fall, so our pickings also are limited. Why people think Delicious apples (red or yellow) and Gala and some of those others are worth eating I can’t fathom! But I’m a Macintosh or Macoun person myself.
      Thanks so much for adding to the conversation!

      Like

  4. Mulberries. luckily they are very opportunistic trees and sprout up everywhere, especially in concrete urban areas

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Oh, my, Leah! You’ve unleashed a frenzy of remembering. When I was a child we had a mulberry tree, and although I suspect they’re not to everyone’s taste, I always liked them a lot. But it’s impossible to buy mulberries! No stores sell them. And so far these days a mulberry opportunity has not knocked on my door!

      Like

  5. mybrightlife says:

    I find the flowers of the sweet pea plant so pretty. Mom still grows them in her garden. They seem to still like it here although those you came across seemed to have grown happily. Perhaps they are making a come-back, although I agree that strawberries make a fair consolation. First prize though : Sweet peas followed by strawberries or both in a fresh green salad with good feta crumbled on top and a splash of balsamic.

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      I seem to have skipped past your comment! I might have been impelled to rush in and find some feta and toss with some greens and strawberries and splash in the balsamic —
      YUM.

      Like

  6. Why do I love these yet HATE mange tout?

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  7. cocomino says:

    What a beautiful pea and strawberry. The taste must be great. 🙂

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      All great! We finished off the small sweet peas this morning, and now this evening the juicy strawberries are waiting —
      Both only come locally once a year, but well worth waiting for!

      Like

  8. You started a song in my head by Tommy Roe with this post and it won’t stop……..

    Oh, Sweet Pea
    Come on and dance with me
    Come on, come on, come on and dance with me
    Oh, Sweet Pea
    Won’t you be my girl
    Won’t you, won’t you, won’t you be my girl

    I went to a dance just the other night
    I saw a girl there she was out of sight
    I asked a friend of mine who she could be
    He said that her friends just call her Sweet Pea
    etc……….
    (I wish Peas would grow here; however, the soil is too alkaline ………
    for the joy of these beautiful plants, both flower and vegetable.
    now on with it…….)
    I finally got to whisper sweet words in her ear
    Convinced her that we oughta get away from there
    We took a little walk
    I held her close to me
    And underneath the stars I said to Sweet Pea

    Oh, Sweet Pea I love you can’t you see
    Love you, love you, love you can’t you see
    Oh, Sweet Pea
    Won’t you be my girl
    Won’t you, won’t you, won’t you be my girl

    Like

  9. I’ve just discovered the joy of fresh sweet peas. The farmers market was offering them this week and giving free samples. It was a revelation!

    Like

  10. Strawberries! I am born in June and as far as I can remember there was always a strawberry cake on my birthday! The green peas remind me of Japan. Edamame. We do not have them in Germany and sometimes I miss them.

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Although edamame look a lot like sweet green peas they taste very different. I like them both! Do Japanese restaurants in Germany have edamame? Here we can buy edamame frozen in the pod or shelled, depending on how you want to use them.
      And happy birthday, June girl! I hope you have/had a strawberry cake this year!

      Like

  11. nothing tastes quite as lovely as fresh sweet peas picked fresh from the garden. except, maybe, strawberries!

    Like

  12. Sonel says:

    Oh, i just love sweet peas but unfortunately here you only find them frozen or in tins and when you do get fresh ones you pay a farm’s price for them. My favourite all time veggie is green beans, made with potatoes, a little bit of onion and a small piece of fatty meat in it and then mashed. My family loves it too! Great post and love the photo’s of the peas and strawberries. 😀 *hugs*

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      This way of fixing green beans is brand new to me, but it sounds delicious. If I get a little bacon in the house, maybe I’ll give it a try!

      Like

      • Sonel says:

        To me it is and maybe you’ll like it too. Let me know. 🙂 My second favourite is mashed potatoes/carrots. 😀

        Like

        • Touch2Touch says:

          Here’s one I love — you might or might not!
          Potatoes and cauliflower mashed, about half and half. Plenty of butter.
          🙂

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          • Sonel says:

            Oh, I absolutely LOVE cauliflower and I haven’t tried that before and I certainly will. I am not really supposed to eat cauliflower with my spastic colon but oh gosh, I just can’t resist. Even my boys love veggies and I am glad for that too. Sometimes we would just cook a pack of mixed veggies, put lots of butter over it, a bit of salt and pepper and sit around the bowl, each with a fork and just enjoy! hehehehehe

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          • Touch2Touch says:

            How nice to be talking with another vegetable lover! My husband would tease me for years because I loved to eat cold leftover cooked (from frozen) little peas with a spoon as a late night snack.

            Like

          • Sonel says:

            Oh yes indeed! Strange that most people don’t like veggies. I even love Broccoli..LOL! Oh, there is nothing better than peas like that. Next time try mixing them with cooked spaghetti, add mayonnaise and peas and let it cool off in the fridge. 😀

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          • Touch2Touch says:

            That sounds like a GREAT idea!
            Usually I don’t like pasta salads, but this one has a lot going for it.

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          • Sonel says:

            Especially with the peas in it hey? LOL!

            Like

          • Sonel says:

            PS: Thanks for the tip! 😀 *hugs*

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          • Touch2Touch says:

            Hope you like it. Because it’s mashed and mixed with the potato it may go down and stay down easy!

            Like

          • Sonel says:

            Hmmm..yummy! 😀

            Like

  13. I use to sit on my favorite aunt’s front steps with a tomato in one hand and a salt shaker in another. To this day, I can’t nibble a tomato without thinking of her, with love. Miss you Zia Maria. ❤ That perfect pod looks like a perfect little shish kabob. Fabulous fotos. 🙂

    Like

  14. tms says:

    Great story, Judith! And yes, there are two things: When I was a kid, ‘exotic’ or mediterranean vegetables like egg plants, zucchini and broccoli were not as common as they are today (I think they were introduced in the sixties and seventies here in Germany … or at least to our family). I loved them all. I immediately fell in love with broccoli which I would always wolf down … until I found that grub my mom had not found, well cooked but YUUUUUUUUUUK! That was that for the broccoli for a while. But I am a big fan of broccoli again.
    The other thing “to die for” is rhubarb which we cook with loads of sugar. As a kid I was not prone to stealing – until it came to the bowl of rhubarb waiting for its turn as a last course of a meal on the kitchen counter. Well, some of it would just ‘evaporate’ before dessert was served. And as I relay this little theft story, let me add that “je ne regrette rien!”

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      I laughed and laughed!
      Although I too would have been turned off by a grub, however thoroughly cooked! I think you are a brave man to have got back together with broccoli again. Interesting to think that these “everyday” vegetables — now! — were once so exotic, but the same is true here.
      The Hub is a little different case. He loves mushrooms, but prefers them called “champignons,” and isn’t wild about zucchini or eggplant much, although will muster more appetite for “courgettes” and “aubergines.” What’s in a name? In his case, appetite!
      Now for the vegetable which turned your character and made you an unrepentant thief (love the Piaf reference) —
      It is his bête noire, if a vegetable can be a bête noire. He has fixed his countenance against rhubarb. And as if, like cats which know who doesn’t like them, rhubarb unerringly comes his way! Hostesses look at him and smile and say, Oh, I have made you a special treat! You will love my stewed rhubarb, or rhubarb pie, or — In Germany this was especially true! I had to hide in a corner to laugh. Anything cooked with loads of sugar is okay with me.
      I hope your wife, or you yourself, whoever cooks, took advantage of this spring’s crop!
      (And the spargel — which is definitely to die for, and nothing like ours which is pretty good itself — but that’s another story!)

      Like

  15. What charming photos! I was delighted to find a new farm stand this weekend – my favorite was damaged in the winter storms – and brought home radishes, kale, beets and lettuce. All fresh and wonderful!

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  16. Pauline says:

    The peas in my garden are just flowering now. If you come visit in a couple of weeks…

    Sweet, fresh, green peas right out of the pod have always been a favorite. It’s why I plant them still, knowing I can sit of a late afternoon and shell them, steam them slightly with just a sprinkle of salt and then savor every tiny morsel. In fact, almost everything I grow in my garden can be eaten right there in the patch, with the exception of the beets, the chard and the eggplant. But oh! sun-warmed tomatoes or cucumbers, or a newly pulled carrot with the dirt rubbed off…

    I picked what I think is the last of the asparagus last night. The rhubarb is still producing delectable stalks and the garden is flourishing. The only childhood summer treat I miss (and I’m sure I’m just not looking in the right places) is a bunch of currants, warm from the sun. They are sweet-tart and heavenly and make a wonderful spread for toast!

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Poetry in prose! What you do so well — I can TASTE everything as you are telling about it.
      Be sure, if you can, to check out the comment from tms (Tobias, in Germany) — with another story of rhubarb.
      The currants went through a bad patch (as it were) for several years, they were thought to carry some sort of disease and were banned in commercial circles. I used to like currant jelly very much, but now that you remind me, haven’t seen it in forever.

      Like

  17. Patti Kuche says:

    There is something so relaxing about shelling peas and then getting to eat such sweet little treats. Lovely to know how much you are enjoying the freshness of summer!

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      I would complain that it was over 90 F. today with the sun burning relentlessly down, but I suspect you’d think I was just kvetching when I should have been singing Hallelujah.
      Hope your summer is being what it should be, Patti, wherever in the world you’re finding yourself!

      Like

  18. Teresa says:

    I know this may sound odd, but when I was little, I really loved eating the core from a head of cabbage. My mom would save it for me. It was truly one of my favorite things.

    The peas and strawberries in your post make me want to take a trip to the farmer’s market. If the rain holds up tomorrow, I just may do that.

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      No more peas here, and the strawberries are iffy — but the lettuces and cukes and zucchini are a-comin’ in.
      Synchronicity — I just used up the remains of a cabbage tonight in a semi-stir-fry. But I have to confess, I tossed the core.
      Did you used to eat it raw, or cooked? Sometimes with a young and tender cabbage I’ll eat some of the shreds right from the knife. But never tried the core —

      Like

      • Teresa says:

        I ate it raw. It was very firm and crunchy…a real work out for my jaws. I’ve never tried the core cooked. I actually prefer many vegetables raw or very close to it (steamed, stir fried, blanched, etc.)

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        • Touch2Touch says:

          Not something I relate to myself — I’m a big cooked veggie fan. But both my kids always liked most of their veggies very lightly cooked — if at all! And so do some of the grandkids —
          Interesting about all this. I never considered cooking a cabbage core, hmmm, I wonder —

          Like

  19. 2e0mca says:

    In England the Sweet Pea is a flowering relative of the Pea with a very strong scent. These are garden peas and can be bought from any market or grocery store throughout the summer as there are early and late varieties. My father used to grow them on the allotment and I have grown them in the back garden.

    I used to love topping and tailing Blackcurrants in the sure knowledge that my mother would then make Blackcurrant Jam. We have three Blackcurrant bushes in the back garden and I made a small quantity of jam from them a few years back and my Son loved it. But they’re past their best now and I shall grub them out as I redesign the garden. Who knows, perhaps the peas will be back 😉

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      We have — or had — flowering sweet peas here also. Wonderful flowers, now old-fashioned and practically forgotten — as are the other sweet garden peas, which are almost impossible to find in markets, even at farm stands. Blackcurrants? Almost entirely gone except in an occasional private garden, like Pauline’s.
      Your climate is cooler than ours in the summer, I think, which is favorable for garden peas. This year all bets are off here — we’re entering the third week of an unchanging forecast, day after day: “chance of showers and thunderstorms, some with heavy rain, chance of flooding, temperature in the high ’80s F.” You cannot imagine (well, perhaps you can!) just how miserable it is. We wait a whole long winter for summer, and summer comes not.
      (Even my basil is not growing, so that tells you.)
      Ah, well, end of moan. I still wake up in the morning!
      And enjoy receiving comments from you! 🙂

      Like

      • 2e0mca says:

        Summer seems in short supply throughout the Northern hemisphere this year – Outbreaks of Sunshine, none of them prolonged or heavy 😦 But the temperatures have been warm enough, just depressingly sunless. What summer there is came late and many people I know including Marc Weatherstone (our new Captain at Wingate & Finchley) are suffering from hayfever as the plants try to stretch out their flowering cycle to increase their chances of producing a new crop. The whole of our family (excluding the Budgies) are bunged up with it! Roll on Autumn when perhaps we’ll get some nice weather at last. My best wishes to you and yours Judith 🙂

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  20. Please, feel welcome to drop by my house any time! We grow sweet peas nearly year round in our garden. They provide a yummy after school treat and/or a refreshing supper side dish.

    I’m finally finding time to catch up with the blog world. My husband is gone for a bit and the kids are out of school. So glad to be reading your wise and entertaining posts again!

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      So nice to “hear” your voice again!
      What lucky kids, who get to snack on sweet peas — You really must have the ideal climate, just like everyone says.
      Enjoy vacation and take a little lazy time for yourself. You have certainly earned it, T.

      Like

  21. Madhu says:

    Ah lucky you! We used to grow them up in the hills. Haven’t tasted them in years.

    Like

  22. Canadiantravelbugs says:

    I am not a pea fan… Never have been. Think it is the texture… Anyway in China they have unusual flavour combos for things. One of the most unusual to date is Pea flavored Popsicles! Maybe you should give ’em a try 😉

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  23. I wasn’t too keen on vegetables or fruits as a child but have fond memories of special nights out in town with the parents for vanilla ice cream topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Your sweet peas look awesome, made sweeter by memories of your childhood. Hope you get to enjoy more of them while they’re in season 🙂

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      It was a good thing I enjoyed those so much, because that was pretty much it for the season!
      Both asparagus and corn season are more forgiving! Asparagus is gone — but I’m eating fresh corn almost every day! Is that something you have in your markets?

      Like

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