By JO ERBSKORN
This past weekend we met a really neat couple at a farmers’ market in Traverse City where our son lives. They were a combination of typical farm wife from the 1950s with a touch of hippie thrown in and the husband was an uber smart nerd/hippie. This combo equals really interesting gardening conversation.
They were selling greens, organic pet snacks, free-range eggs and organic pet toys. I wanted greens for a salad for supper and theirs were the best. So I bought some mixed greens and the lady asked me if I have ever tried sorrel. I hadn’t. It turns out it’s pretty good and a nice additive to a salad. Then she asked if I have ever tried pea sprouts. Well, no, and to be honest that’s another thing I would not have thought of as edible. How do people think of what is edible and not?
You would think if you ate the fruit of a plant the whole thing should be edible, but rhubarb leaves are poisonous. I can tell you a dozen or more ways to cook rhubarb. We have five different plants and two varieties.
Back to the pea sprouts. The lady handed me a stem and said try it, they are great on anything you would use lettuce on. Guess what? Big surprise. They taste like peas. Sugar snap peas to be exact. A very fresh taste. We added a few to the salad and it was definitely a good thing as it made it have a very fresh, lively taste. The lady suggested using them on burgers and I can’t wait to give that a try.
As usual, all this got my curiosity neurons turning about how to grow these, what exactly they are, where to get the seed, what kind of pea the seed is. The lady told me that they are called field peas and you plant them in a shallow container. She uses old tote lids from plastic tote boxes that were long gone. I learned that it takes very little dirt to grow them. Spread out the seed and lightly press down into the soil. Water gently and let grow. When they are six inches tall cut them close to the soil rinse and eat. The plants won’t regrow so you have to start over after each harvest.
They are human food grade field peas or Pisum sativum, also called a dun pea. They are one of the oldest domesticated crops in the world, tracing back 7,000 years. They are grown in many countries for both human consumption and stockfeed. It is very closely related to the garden pea. It is a climbing annual legume with weak tiny succulent stems. It grows up to two feet tall. The flowers are white, pink or purple, and the root systems are small and compact.
As for finding the seed, that was easy. There was a delightful seed store right in Traverse City. This place is a gardener’s heaven. There was a huge serve-yourself heirloom seed table that gave both my and Art’s hearts a leap. There were lots of goodies there and I bought 10 pounds of field pea seed. Some folks buy t-shirts as souvenirs, we buy seeds. We are strange birds, but it works for us.
I can’t wait to get started in the garden as soon as my knee heals up. I may just have to start the pea sprouts in the house this week.