Looking forward to summer peas

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 16, 2015

I can’t wait for peas to come in season. I have this thing about peas—if I can’t think of anything to cook, I can always snatch a bag of peas from my freezer and work from there. Unfortunately, there are no peas in my freezer now. In the past few years, instead of buying peas by the bushel to prepare for the freezer, I have taken the easy, convenient way. I buy clean shelled, bagged peas from my favorite produce market and cook them right away. Sometimes I buy frozen peas at the grocery store, but they are not nearly as good.

This year, I plan to get myself on the waiting list for a bushel or two of some good, fresh purple hull and other kinds of peas. Yes, I know it is a job to get them ready for the freezer. It’s worth it to me. When I jump into this kind of project, I think of my mother who came to live with my husband and me when she was in her eighties. I worked three days a week and she often cooked the evening meal for us. What a joy it was to find the table set and our supper hot and waiting on the stove. We enjoyed plenty of fresh vegetables those days, including peas, of course.

One day I saw some peas for sale by the bushel at a roadside stand. I went overboard–bought two bushels that time. Mother and I dumped that big pile of peas on newspapers on the kitchen floor. Then we began shelling. Returning from the kitchen after shelling her first batch, Mother joked that she was back from our pea patch.

As we kept shelling and blanching peas, it seemed as if peas scattered everywhere. When we sat down to eat, blanched peas cooling on a towel occupied one end of the table. A handful turned up in my chair cushion. More rolled around on the floor beside it. When bedtime forced us to stop working, we had many left to shell. We emptied the refrigerator vegetable bins and jammed them full of peas. It was a tight fit, but it worked. The next day we started over.

Mother measured them carefully as we filled the plastic bags to determine how many quarts we were getting from those two bushels. We wound up with a nice supply, so we knew where to reach when we hit a blank deciding what to cook. We just grabbed a bag of peas to go along with pork chops or chopped steak, or a vegetable. We diced tomatoes to add to other salad ingredients, baked cornbread muffins, and made a pitcher of sweet tea. The next day Mother fixed one of her luncheon favorites: “pea soup” over leftover cornbread.

This summer, I hope to again experience the satisfaction I get from pulling a bag of peas (and perhaps some other vegetables) processed by Nina out of my freezer.