I judge my spring garden by two metrics — how well I treated my peas and how well they’re treating me. Did I plant them at the right time — as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring? Did I keep enough of the birds and squirrels away to prevent the pilfering of those pea seeds before they had a chance to sprout and grow? And did I give them a trellis to climb as soon as their shoots were stretching their limbs in search of one?
This year, with so much more time at home — and needing gardening’s therapeutic qualities more than ever — I could answer yes to all of the above. But the one thing I’ve never been good at is succession planting, the artful spacing out of sowing that leads, theoretically at least, to an artful spacing out of harvesting.
You know where this is going: My peas did so well that they soon started dripping from the plants, seemingly all at the same time. This year, I’m growing sugar snap peas rather than English peas, because I want to be able to consume the pods, too, and because they are one of the vegetables that truly sold my husband on the glories of fresh-from-the-vine eating.
Most weekdays, I make us a big salad for lunch, mostly from the garden: lettuces and other greens, carrots, broccoli and now those sugar snaps. But at this rate, I can’t quite keep up with them, and we feel a little like Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory, so I went looking for recipes that would use them differently. I settled on a pilaf from chef Floyd Cardoz, who died this spring of complications from covid-19. In his 2016 cookbook, “Flavorwalla,” Cardoz describes a familiar situation: “I wanted to create a showcase for a lot of peas: a pressing issue, since they were pouring out of my garden faster than I could cook them.” He uses English peas and sugar snaps, pureeing some and stirring them into an aromatic bulgur pilaf and sauteing the rest with butter and mint to pile on top.
If you don’t have access to fresh English peas, don’t fret: Frozen work just fine here. But there is no substitute for the sugar snaps. I love them so much in this treatment that every bite reminds me that, soon enough, the pace of harvesting them will slow to a trickle and spring will be over.