March 13, 2014

For some, St. Patrick’s Day means green beer, corned beef, and kissing the Irish. For me, the holiday is a hallmark of green things to come in the garden. It signals spring is right around the corner, and who isn’t desperately seeking that right now?

“Plant peas by St. Patrick’s Day” has been a longstanding tradition in garden lore. Get started now with a patch that will please you in late spring with some of the sweetest parts you can't easily find at the market: tender shoots, lovely blooms, and freshly-picked pods.

Choose from sugar snap and snow peas with edible pods, or English shelling peas. In the Cooking Light garden, we’ve come to love the tiny but stout ‘Tom Thumb’ variety that performs well in containers. A royal purplish-blue podded pea, such as ‘Blauwschokkers,’ is one to turn a few heads. ‘Golden Sweet’ is a yellowish-chartreuse standout for tender pods. Unless you live in a warm climate where peas are best suited for cooler 70-degree fall days, pick your pea seeds and get going! Soak these overnight in lukewarm water and place in a sunny spot where trenches have been dug an inch or so deep. It’s also helpful to coat seeds in a legume inoculant to kick start peas’ natural nitrogen-fixing tendency.

While you wait on those to sprout and unfurl into curly tendrils and soft shoots, our May issue will have arrived. In our May column, we’ll cover dips and pasta recipes showing what we taste-tested in the trial garden. Until then, get planting! Next Monday, serve up something green with bright flavor, such as our Salmon with Fresh Sorrel Sauce or an appetizer of Zesty Green Goddess Dip.

In other garden news, we sadly tip our hats to our resident Phyllis Diller-coiffed Polish hen, affectionately known as Peaches. While we loved her brilliant bouffant, she apparently didn't see the hawk coming.

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