Nothing says spring more than the taste of fresh peas, whether they are still in the pod and you eat them whole or they’re shelled little green pearls of raw, sweet pleasure. If there is any one thing worth growing in your garden, it’s peas of all sorts. Unfortunately, I’ve been in a lifetime struggle—between rabbits, guinea hens, and trellising solutions, I’ve only once really gotten the output for the effort I put into them. When I lived in my old house in the town of Emmaus, where rabbits ruled the roost, I had a custom-built “pea protector” made; it worked for a few years, but didn’t quite survive the move to the country.
And about the same time the peas are popping, the mint is rising out of the earth, and unfurling its sweet, tender tips just waiting to be consumed….
My favorite mint is apple mint, with its soft, furry, sweet leaves. And peas, well, I’ll eat any of them, including the plant itself, but my favorite is fresh raw peas from the shell. And a salad is the perfect way to enjoy these two springtime beauties (other than just eating them plain and raw).
NUTRITION: Peas are a great source of fiber, thiamin, folate, iron, and vitamins A and K. A cup of peas provides more than 60 percent of daily vitamin C requirements, protects against cancers, and reduces risk for cardiovascular disease.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Mint is well known for calming the stomach and, of course, freshening the breath.
STORIES AND SPIRIT: According to Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, “When Persephone found out that Pluto was in love with the beautiful nymph Minthe, jealousy burned within her, and she changed Minthe into a lowly plant. Pluto couldn’t undo Persephone’s spell, but he did soften it a little so that the more Minthe was tread upon, the sweeter her smell would be. The name Minthe changed to Mentha and became the genus name of this herb, mint.”
FORAGING AND FINDING: Peas are best garden-grown or purchased at the farmer’s market. But if you see organic peas in the supermarket, go for it! Mint is extremely invasive, so I plant it at the edge of the woods where it can be mowed into submission (and the forest on the other side takes care of the rest).
Spring Pea and Mint Salad
Whatever peas you have available—snow, snap, shelled
Pea shoots, too
A sprig or two of fresh mint
Shaved Parmesan or Romano cheese
Lettuce if you need it and want it
1 part Sherry or red or white wine vinegar
3 to 4 parts good organic olive oil
1. Wash, clean, and shell the peas. A combination of raw peas and snap peas works best for this salad.
2. Chop up the snap peas, and if you have pea shoots, clean and chop them up, too.
3. Put them all in a bowl and add lettuce if you need to fill it up, or if you want to.
4. Clean and chop a handful of fresh mint.
5. Mix the vinegar, salt, and olive oil together and toss with the salad.
6. Add shavings of Parmesan or Romano cheese to the top.
Voilà! Enjoy to your utmost pleasure.