Fall is in the air; can you smell it? Summer plants are dying, decaying and adding nutrients to our soil as they pass. There is a crispness to the breeze that makes it easier for bodies to breathe. After frenetic summer harvests and food processes, I find autumn's slower garden pace to be relaxing. Shelling my grandmother's peas is a task I enjoy and as they simmer, creating a rich pot liquor broth and earthy fragrance, my body craves those fruits and vegetables that are as much a part of their season as falling leaves.
|Granny's peas are as delicious as they are beautiful|
We grow a large percentage of the food we eat and Richard and I find our bodies and taste buds eagerly anticipate each season's crops. Nothing compares to the taste of a sun-warmed, perfectly ripe, heirloom tomato, until tiny sweet carrots and spicy radishes are ready to pull. Then, there is fragrant arugula, crisp leaves that make delicious salads, pesto or sandwich components. Combine and braise hearty kale, collards, mustard greens and turnip leaves and that cold weather dish feels like a pure dose of immune system boosting power. Brush snow from spinach plants to uncover tender leaves that encourage nibbling as numb fingers work to pick them. Green garlic shoots, sugar snap peas, asparagus spears and even dandelion leaves and wild onions are harbingers of their season and whet appetites for the wealth of summer's fruit and veg bounty.
Supporting local food is about more than purchasing fresh ingredients at a farmer's market, ordering from a farm-to-table menu or unpacking a box of goodies from a CSA; it's about relishing each season's unique flavors, textures and nutrients. This fall, vow to appreciate parsnips, greens, apples, pumpkins and other autumn crops. Listen to your body. Go for a long walk. Breathe deeply. Savor each bite. All too soon, temperatures will drop and icy winds will blow, but on some of our coldest days, rosemary will bloom and fresh spinach will nestle under snow, encouraging us to seek winter's tastes. Eat each season.
Southern Style Fresh Peas
My maternal grandmother called her peas "black-eyed peas," but they are a type of cowpea, also known as crowder peas, for the way they "crowd" into each pod. This year, in addition to Granny's peas, we also grew Whippoorwill peas at Heart & Sole. A cousin, Gene Hedrick, shared heirloom seeds with us that he reports grew in the Hedrick/Barlowe family for generations. Both peas produced well and look almost identical. A perfect fall dish, fresh peas are easy to prepare and delicious to eat.
Remove fresh peas from pods, rinse and drain. Allow 3/4 cups fresh shelled peas for each serving.
In a large pot, heat about 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil. (Meat lovers may use bacon fat.) Saute 1/2 cup chopped onion until translucent. Add peas and enough water to cover. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover pot and allow peas to simmer until they are the texture you prefer, anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.
Serve with hot cornbread.
|Cooked only in water, Granny's peas make a hearty pot liquor broth|