Finished planting the garden late last week, just before two days of heavy rain. I’ve put carrots, wax beans, indian corn, beets, field and mini pumpkins, head lettuce, basil, sunflowers, zinnias, bachelor buttons and tomatoes in the ground. Also, an interesting experiment I’m calling mystery peas. These are some of a five pound bag of organic whole green peas I bought last winter for sprouting. Actually, I just soak the peas to rehydrate and eat them raw on salads. I love the taste of raw peas and in the winter it’s hard to find them. Soaked dried peas taste almost the same as fresh ones.
On a whim, in the middle of May I grabbed a couple handfuls and with the help of my 5-yr-old granddaughter Lia, planted the peas in a row. I have no idea what variety they are. Could be something that isn’t even designed for our short northern growing season. We will find out. They are all sprouted and starting to grow. Usually it is good to plant peas in late April to early May since they like cooler weather, but mid-May is good enough, especially in Maine. Two nights ago the temps got down to 40. Brr. The last few days have been cool, cloudy and damp.
Whole dried peas are usually made into soup, pease porridge or mushy peas, or sprouted. I tried sprouting peas during the winter. Pea spouts are great on salad and sandwiches. They are expensive to buy, so I thought I’d do my own.
I learned that for me, sprouting peas is not worth the effort. The seeds are sprouted either without soil, which involves keeping them damp in a plastic container and shaking them twice a day, or they are placed in soil and allowed to grow until a good cutting height is reached. I tried the no soil method. I ended up with spouts that tasted like roots since they all still had roots. Pea roots have an earthy flavor, even if they’ve never touched soil. Not the taste for me. I’m using up the rest of the 5 pound bag by soaking them overnight in the fridge and eating raw. Maybe I’ll make some mushy peas, those are good.
While I was checking the progress of the peas, I also discovered the lettuce has just sprouted. Tiny baby leaves are popping out all over! And I spotted a couple volunteer cucurbits, no idea what they are. The sprouts are in the area where field pumpkins grew last year, so I’m hoping that’s what they are. If the volunteers are some sort of gourd, they could ruin the pumpkins by cross-breeding. Since I’m adventurous, I’ll leave those sprouts to see how they develop.
There are also volunteer sunflowers where sunflowers grew last year. With great care, I rototilled around them this spring and now have three well-started plants. Their parents were yellow-flowered so I imagine they will be as well.
This year I planted six Early Girl tomatoes. Before long they will grow into a tomato jungle and take over their area of the garden. They will need to share some room with the mini-pumpkins and the lettuce in the lower corner. I grew corn in this area the last couple years. It’s time to move the corn to a new spot to prevent smut from developing. Smut is a fungus that infects corn, turning the ears into corn-shaped mushrooms. The best way to avoid smut is to rotate the crop to fresh ground each year. I also discovered that planting beets where they will be shaded from the hot afternoon sun by the corn greatly improves the quality of the beets. The leaves stay tender longer for use as beet greens and the beets don’t become woody.
Now all we need is ample rain and some warm, sunny days. I know that’s asking for a lot. Hope springs eternal in the gardener’s heart.