The other day, while clicking through TV channels on my way to CNN, hoping to catch some breaking news before dashing to class, I happened upon a skit on “Sesame Street” that stopped me standing in my tracks, the remote frozen in my hand.  A baby-puppet in a high chair (don’t ask me her name; I never watch “Sesame Street”) had just dumped her bowl of baby food — pureed peas — onto the floor, wailing that she HATED! peas, even though she’d yet to try them.

 

The baby-size vegetable-puppets (yes, broccoli, carrot, zucchini – you name it) became incensed by her behavior.  Hoppin’ mad!  How dare she DO such a thing?!  They gathered to demonstrate, bobbing up and down in front of the screen, ‘60s-style beads and hair bands flying, brandishing placards, and chanting, “Give peas a chance!”

           

Ha!  I couldn’t stop laughing.  Forget CNN, this was much more fun.  (Ah, sweet “Sesame Street.”  Who could be so curmudgeonly as to want to cut its funding?)  But watching this skit also got me thinking about peas…

           

Several years ago, when I lived about 30 miles south of Taos in an agricultural village called Dixon and owned a little house with nearly two acres of land (which my friends from New York fondly referred to as my “farmette”), I planted, among other things, peas.  Everything about farming and gardening in these parts was new to me, so these peas were, like everything else I attempted, experimental.  It was March, still coldish here in the Lower Rockies, and too early to plant most things.  (“After Mother’s Day” is the local rule of thumb.)  But the man at the farm supply story pressed a small bag of dried pea-seeds on me, and insisted the time to plant them was “now.”

 

 

I found a sunny spot, no larger than a double-door, and double-dug, through the still-somewhat-frozen soil.  I planted the rock-hard, seemingly inert, colorless pellets the requisite depth and covered their new bed with a blanket of straw.  Snows came, as they will here in March, along with below-freezing night temperatures, and I wondered how on earth those seeds would make it through.  To my great surprise, they did.

 

Pea plants sprouted, then grew and grew.  Soon, I had to support them with tall sticks to keep them from collapsing on each other.  The patch was thick – too thick, really; I’d apparently planted too many seeds – with rich, green growth.  And then, after the pretty flowers, the pea pods appeared, hidden amidst the foliage, long and fat and filled with sweet peas.  Sweet became the operative word, because the freshly picked and shucked raw peas tasted (yes, I know it’s a cliché) like candy.  Few of them made it as far as my kitchen.

 

Two days ago, driving north to Taos from Santa Fe, along a highway that zigzags through the mountains and hugs the roiling Rio Grande, I spotted a freshly ploughed field on the side of the road near Dixon.  The upturned earth was chocolate brown; the rows were long and neat.  What would be planted there so early in the season, I wondered?  Peas?  I had the urge to stop the car and visit the farmhouse, maybe even suggest to the farmer that if he hadn’t already decided what to plant in that just-ploughed spot, he might want to consider peas.

 

I have no land at all now that I live in the town of Taos.  But if I did, I’d plant a pea patch this month.  In my limited gardening experience, nothing is easier or more gratifying to grow.  We’re encouraged at every turn to add more fruit and vegetables to our daily diets and to buy our produce locally.  Well, why not try growing your own?  Begin right now, this month, with peas.  Yes, read my placard:  “Give peas a chance!”

 

French Fresh Pea Soup (aka Potage Saint-Germain)

1 medium sweet onion, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 cup water

1 (10-oz.) package frozen peas, thawed, or 2 cups shelled fresh peas

2 cups chopped Boston lettuce

¼ cup fresh mint leaves

Salt and pepper

¼ cup heavy cream (optional)

 

Melt butter in a large saucepan over moderate heat.  Sauté onions until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring.  Add stock and water and bring to a boil.  Add peas and lettuce and simmer, partially covered, until peas are tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in mint.  Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth.  Return soup to pan, season with salt and pepper to taste and reheat over moderately low heat, stirring until hot.  Ladle soup into bowls.  Drizzle with cream, if using.  Serve with croutons, if desired.  Makes about 4 cups or four servings as a first course.