Fresh peas are here and I'm elated. These little green gems encased in a light green pod, taste nothing like the peas I knew when I was growing up. I like nothing better than to eat these sweet little morsels directly from the pod, and if any survive the shelling they are simply steamed and tossed with the smallest dab of butter ... divine either way.
My mother, God rest her soul, wasn't much of a cook although she gave it a good old 1950s kind of try. Most vegetables, and certainly all peas, came either from a box or a can - green peas from a box in the freezer and Le Sueur peas from a can. (Le Sueur, Minnesota is apparently where the Green Giant grows the peas for this canned brand.) Now trust me, we were not deprived in the area of food growing up ... "we didn't starve", there just wasn't much that was natural on our table. To be fair, I should say that there really aren't that many farms on Cape Cod which is where I grew up. The Cape is known mostly for its salty air and fresh seafood, not its produce.
I treasure the day that my mother married my beloved step-father, a former stock broker, real estate broker, and more importantly ... farmer. He focused mostly on dairy when he was farming but there were always fresh vegetables in the kitchen garden, and this man introduced fresh vegetables to our table - fresh peas, fresh lima beans, fresh beets, fresh broccoli, and even fresh carrots, believe it or not. I think he had quite a good time the day he handed me a pea pod and asked me to open it - I didn't have a clue, but I wasn't going to be defeated by something so small and according to my step-father, so normal. Eventually the two of us were shelling a bucket of pea pods, dropping the peas into a bowl that didn't seem to grow in volume half as fast as the bucket with the shells. My step-father preached patience, and oh what a reward there was. The sweetness of those peas I'll remember forever, and when he steamed them ever so slightly they were equally good. They weren't shriveled and limp like those things in the boxes and cans ... they simply popped with the lovely sweetness of fresh garden peas ... the ones I now wait for impatiently every spring.