Beach peas

I missed the peas at the Provincetown market; a woman in line just ahead of me yesterday afternoon scooped deep into the bottom of the basket, and the last pods walked away. Resigned to wait for the first harvest from my garden, I made my way back to the sticky heat of the car.

Driving home, the bay beckoned. My legs stuck to the creased black leather of the drivers' seat, and I veered off the highway towards Ryder Beach. Dune gave way to water, and the sultry weight of the day deliquesced.

Climbing back towards home, I noticed a stand of wild beach peas clinging to the sand. With tendrils reaching tenaciously at moving earth, they stretched across the foredune intermingled with roses and grass. The pods were just ripe, their fuzzy skin a brilliant green and bumped with the promise of tiny peas.

From only four plants, I picked enough peas to fill my makeshift gathering towel. At home, I began shucking. For every pod, I found perhaps two peas the size of a teardrop; not a great yield, but certainly worth the work. Within a half hour, a cup stood before me, ready to cook. While the tiny snacks can be eaten raw, they sweeten when served hot.

I arranged several lettuce leaves in the bottom of a heavy saucepan, sprinkled the peas, a dash of butter, and a sprinkling of sugar and salt on top, and ten minutes later we sat down to a foragers supper of petit pois. Tomorrow, I'm heading back to the dune for another harvest—this time for freezing.

PETIT POIS, or English peas

Serves 4

Line a Dutch oven with 4 large lettuce leaves. Layer with 1 and 1/2 cup tiny shelled beach peas. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper. Dot with 2 tablespoons butter, and cover with several more lettuce leaves. With a tight lid on top, cook for 8-10 minutes or until peas are tender, adding small amounts of water if peas begin to dry out. Serve peas atop lettuce leaves, or chop and serve together. Enjoy hot.

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