Thursday, February 10, 2011

Purple Podded Pea Soup

Writing purple podded pea soup was irresistible, but this post is really about my garden and these peas I dried. Right now my little garden is under two feet of snow with a thick crust of ice on top. So, when I take things out from the pantry or freezer it's really like a postcard from summer, and a glimpse into next summer.

It doesn't necessarily have to be from my own garden to get me verklempt. I pulled a quart of huge, red tomatoes from the freezer that were from my friend Dana's garden and used them to make some incredible chili. The red of these great big heirlooms was a shock to my winter-glazed eyes. What's so cool is that it was Dana's first garden in many years. She was a little worried that it wouldn't work out, but it not only supplied her family with food, she had to unload some on me! Bless her soul.

He called them Thai fish chilis...
How about these amazing peppers from pals John and Jen? They're been gardening in the New Paltz Community Gardens for years now, I believe. John makes some outrageous hot sauces, so he goes heavy on the peppers. I never grow peppers, but I think this year I will. Look at how incredible these are! I strung them up in the kitchen and after about five months they are dry and ready to pop into meals. Like chili.

When I bought the purple podded peas seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library, I wasn't quite sure what I had gotten. I thought I would be able to eat them off the vine. Technically I could, but they were a bit tough. A tweet answered from those nice folks at the library told me what I suspected: they were peas for drying. What happens with legumes that you dry? Very simply: they dried on the vine, I shelled them, stored them in a mason jar, and took them out recently to make some pea soup. They did not look like split peas at all. The look like pea seeds, which they are. My yield from a little row of peas was one and a half cups. I tossed them in a pot, added eight cups of water, some chunks of ham, and let it cook for quite a few hours. It tasted just like pea soup, even though it doesn't quite look like pea soup.

It's nice to have a helper for shelling dried peas.
However, growing these peas, as I noted, didn't yield much. My rationale for growing them again is this: legumes are wonderful for your soil, they are what's called nitrogen-fixing plants, and naturally provide nitrogen for your garden (for more in depth but simple information on this process follow this link). So, if I get a pot of soup out of it, all the better. It's also a beautiful plant and easy to grow. Remember that when you plant peas or beans you will want to look into inoculant for your soil to get the best results. The inoculant (a naturally occurring bacteria) helps the plants to fix the nitrogen. I bought a small bag at my local gardening store and sprinkled it in the soil before planting.

Purple podded peas!
If you want to get serious about growing dried legumes, you're going to need a lot of room to plant quite a few plants. I'm not sure that I have enough room for that. Already I am working on how I'm going to plant everything I want to grow this year. I built three new beds last year! And already I know I'll run out of room. It's not just that I want to grow more, but I want quantity. I'm trying to keep in mind that the last two summers were probably the worst ones we've had in years. Two years ago it rained incessantly. Last year it didn't rain at all. However, my spirits are never dashed; I am completely optimistic about this year.

The walk to the compost pile is arduous.
What are you dreaming about with regards to gardening? Do you have seeds already started? Or are you still dreaming in the snow, like me? Have you been gardening for years, or are you just starting?

Mr. and Mrs. Elderberry need wetter quarters.
I'm dreaming about more fruit plants, moving my elderberries to a new home by the pond, creating a new composting system, building more growing space. Although, I've been gardening my whole life, and my current garden is now five years old, I always, always feel like a novice. I just keep on learning!


  1. I am dreaming of knocking down the space-wasting barn in my backyard (happening in April - YAY!), having a Mr. and Mrs. Apple Tree as counterparts to your Mr. and Mrs. Elderberry Trees, so that I will have a lifetime of homemade pectin, a compost container that will feed my new garden, that I will (soon) have space for. I am dreaming SO MUCH of this, that I even have to write about it to you while I'm "working." :)

  2. Hmmm... your path to the compost heap looks like mine, only longer and a bit more pastoral. About 3 weeks ago, when our back door no longer opened due to the sheet of ice, I stopped brining my compost out there. It's my first compost pile here and I started to have bad visions of spring arriving and my backyard getting flooded with banana peels. So, bad me, I'm not trekking out there right now. Have your compost heaps wintered over well? Is it is a mess in the spring?

    We're at a brand new house, and I deadened some grass to start a garden next year. It'll have to be pretty low-key, since I'll be ultra pregnant/giving birth/meeting a new baby essentially during the peak of harvesting. All my ideas about having time to can tomatoes seem like they might have to wait a summer. Unless tomatoes freeze well....

    My garden plan:
    peas/pea pods
    peppers (red and green)
    summer squashes
    greens of some sort

    I'd also like to try cabbage and some root veggies, like parsnips and beets. We'll see. I did buy som organic seed starter, and I've saved a lot of egg cartons, which I hope to use as little seed starters. We shall see. I, too, am quite snowed under here and it seems like a long time till we'll see green.

    Thanks for all the photos!

  3. go triple P, lovely images, as always, seriously though, i don't know how you do it. a family, a garden, snow, so much snow, and keeping the blog! you must be some kind of dynamite, 24/7, a great inspiration, to say the least.
    thank you!

  4. "Purple Podded Pea Soup" Oh, the beauty of alliteration. I'd just gotten started with my (our) first garden and then we moved. Now we are urban with zero outdoor space. We are seriously considering a slight relocation that will give us just a little bit more space. I so miss gardening. I'd love to try growing some Flageolets Verts (Extra-Fins). I'm not sure why they are everywhere in Paris and I don't see them here. Perhaps there is a reason, but if not...I'd love to grow my own.

  5. Love to grow beans to dry. Flageolets were one of my favorites,smooth pale green wonderfulnesses. There are so many heirloom beans that are worth searching for, is one source. I used to grow them along a fence thus freeing up my raised beds. Of course I had to over plant so my neighbors could snip a few on the other side of the fence.
    Here's to a great growing season.

  6. Casey - That sounds so great! It's easy to get carried away with this winter we're having. But, weather report predicts a high of 42 for next week. I'm dizzy with excitement!

    Emily - No, it's not usually a mess. Mine is contained in a circle of fencing, so it seems to get together pretty well. And congrats on your impending new one! You probably won't get a lot done, I must admit, but tomatoes freeze beautifully. Just throw them in a ziploc bag whole, skin and all, and the skin should come off easily once frozen. Run them under warm water and they fall off. Or keep them. I don't mind tomato skins, usually.
    Your garden plans sound great. When I had my son, I started small. Now that he's 2.5 I envision so much more! Good luck!

    Michael - No, thank you! You are always so kind and supportive! Honestly, I often wonder if I can continue this blog, but I find that I wouldn't be able to stop. Mostly because of meeting fine people like yourself. It makes it all worthwhile.

    Denise - Congrats on your move! I hope it's a good one, garden lack not withstanding. Is there a community garden anywhere near? I think now that you, and 2BySea, recommend flageolets, I may just try them this year!

    Two By The Sea - I might try flageolets now! The HV Seed Library has some great ones that are proven for our area, so I may get more adventurous. I like your tip of running them up the fence. I think I may do that.
    And here, here! To a great growing season!

  7. Jules: I am glad I got my virtual butt over here, because you know I love a good garden update. Those purple podded peas are wonderful. (Kaela recently posted a flageolet recipe, did you see? It was the first I'd ever heard of them.) Come next fall, I am going to try Fava beans for the nitrogen fixing business, I think. A lot of folks do that here.

    My seedlings are happily growing. They are snug in the new pop-up greenhouse, riding out the rainstorm we're having now. Everyone survived the little fungus emergency at the start . . . peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, ground cherries, hardy kiwi. I have no idea where I'm going to plant all this stuff!

    And . . . awww . . . Sterling!

  8. Shae - I am soo excited to keep tabs on your garden exploits. The terraced garden is incredibly sharp. And kiwis! I can't wait to hear about them. You know it's bad when you don't have room and start eyeballing trees in order to make more raised beds.

  9. We are really scaling back this year in our garden plans. With both of us working, we need to just stick with low-maintenance crops: Our garlic did really well last year and we planted some more this fall along with shallots. Let's see how they made it through this winter. I think otherwise we'll do some herbs and the obligatory tomato. Probably shoudl plant some beans for the reasons you suggest: enriching the soil! I think it's fun to plant the beans I order from rancho gordo; I get a kick out of the fact that I can plant the beans I buy to eat. (Well, duh! Beans are seeds? I guess I am easily entertained).

  10. Hi Sara! I'll bet. I can't imagine how busy you must be. And, like you, I'm amused that I can plants beans and it grows into a plant! This year my mission is all about quantity. I want!