Independence Day – Be free to grow!
After the cool, rainy month of June, we New Englanders were absolutely delighted with this bout of gorgeous weather that engulfed the region starting the day before Independence Day and hopefully continuing at least long enough for our gardens to dry out and the slugs to go elsewhere. Saturday and Sunday were bright and warm and breezy. I did take some time for family and fireworks but managed to squeeze in a reasonable amount of gardening activities.
Ahh, the harvest has begun! We’re a little late this year because of the cloudy weather. The first crop of snap peas was practically bursting out of its pods, just itching to be picked. I have to admit a good many do not make it out of the garden as their sweet taste is just too good to resist. Most years I grow sugar snaps for fresh eating, salads and stir fries, and regular shelling peas to be served lightly steamed with a dab of butter and touch of salt. I almost always choose Tall Telephone for my shelling pea as I grow them along a fence and want the plants to be tall for more peas and easier picking. Plus, picked at the peak of ripeness, they are very sweet and tender. They do however turn starchy quite quickly so do plan on checking them regularly.
Sugar Snap is the standard for snap peas and most years that is what I plant. While I do love my tried and trues, I also like to experiment a bit and I like plants labeled unique (sometimes for better and other times for worse). This time it is for better. Sugar Lace II was described as having loads of 3 inch pods on a semi-leafless plant. Unique. 65 days. It was unique considering the huge amount of tendrils it produces that does make it look lacy, just like its name suggests. And it is producing loads of 3 inch pods – about 5 or 6 per plant. I have a 30 foot row so I am getting enough for lunch every day this week and also for my favorite fresh snap pea dish – pasta with shrimp and dill sauce. I’ll finish picking this upcoming weekend. Pods are best left to fill with the sweet peas, about 6 to 8 in a pod.
The only problem I have with peas is sharing. You see the garden that the peas are grown in is about 20 by 40 feet and surrounded by a 4 foot high fence, originally put in place to keep the raccoons out because that is where we grow corn. Now the back of the fence abuts an area we have fenced in around our chicken coop. I learned the hard way not to plant peas along the back of the fence as the chickens would contort themselves every which way to get at these sweet, green delicacies leaving none for me. As I picked my peas the other evening I could hear cluck, cluck, cu – luck!!! as they saw I was collecting their most favorite food in the world. I told my hardworking ladies there would be plenty of the other peas for them in a few more weeks as I do have a habit of letting some go by unpicked. I did, however, share a few pods with my Goffin’s cockatoo, Phanto, as I will do almost anything not to hear him scream!
Often the question comes to the Home & Garden Education Center about why does my dill plant die. Dill is a very short lived plant and once it fulfills it mission in life – producing seeds, it moves on to that great ecosystem in the sky leaving behind the beginning of several new generations. Left to its own devices, I find I get about 3 crops of dill each season but usually leave most of the second for the larvae (caterpillar) of the black swallowtail butterfly, sometimes called the parsley worm for its penchant for dill, parsley, fennel and other closely related plants. It is a beautiful yellow, white and black striped caterpillar and as far as I am concerned, it can eat all the dill it wants.
Pictures from: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu
Just in case someone is looking for a great way to serve up their sugar snaps, here is my favorite recipe taken from a pasta box from a local Shaw’s grocery store:
2 cans of tiny shrimp (4.5 oz drained)
2 cups of snap peas, ends trimmed
3 medium carrots, sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1/8 teas. red pepper
1/8 teas. dry mustard
1 teas. lemon zest
Cook 16 oz. box of pasta (something small like shells or elbows) as directed. Mix together shrimp, peas and carrots. Mix separately remaining ingredients and pour over shrimp and vegetables. Add pasta, mix, chill and enjoy!