Anyone who has a vegetable garden knows there is an optimum time in which it is best to do your harvesting.
Yesterday I picked peas, because they were ready. Leaving the peas for another day would have compromised their flavor, and they can get starchy when you leave them to long. I don’t mind picking peas, and I don’t mind shelling them.
While I was busy picking, I thought back to when the kids were little. We had our garden at the back of the house. Now it is ¾ of a mile down the road. They would be with me in the garden, either in a carriage, playpen, in the shade, or I would have the baby monitor with me, so I could hear when they woke up.
It was not always easy living out in the country without much support, so you tried to make the best of it. This meant getting work done whenever you could even with the children. We had four children fairly close together, all within 7 years of each other. The husband was usually away at work, and did not get back until later in the evening so I had to rely on myself.
Working in the garden
I enjoyed working in the garden, and found it relaxing. Doing mindless work, like pulling weeds, I would let my mind wander and often have long conversations in my head. This sounds very schizophrenic, but for me it was a way to work through things. I read a quote somewhere which said: “Gardening is dirt therapy.” I think this very true; you can really put your frustration at work by pulling weeds!!
Helpers in the garden
Back then it was children keeping me company in the garden, these days it’s the dogs. I can’t say it is much easier picking peas when the dog insists on laying on the rows and licking your hand while you are picking peas!
I still enjoy gardening, I find it soothing and relaxing. Just listening to the sounds of the outdoors and smelling the fragrance of the different flowers, and getting your hands and feet dirty!
Learning to garden
When I first learned how to garden and process the harvest, my mother-in-law taught me that it is best to pick early in the morning for optimal flavor and tenderness. Later in the day peas for example will become starchier and less flavorful. Still prefer to pick in the morning if I can, also because it is cooler then. Especially this year it has been very hot and humid, so you don’t want to be out in the sun in the afternoon.
Processing the harvest
When the picking is done, the processing starts, for peas it starts with the shelling. I used to have a pea sheller and I did use it a bit, but I finally gave up on it as the peas ended up getting too squished for my liking, also peas were shooting all around the kitchen, with more ending up on the floor then in my bowl, weeks later I would still find peas! And I really did not think it was saving me a whole lot of time. It also was hard work. There is something relaxing about sitting with your feet up and shelling peas, kind of like knitting or crocheting.
Doing it my way
In the early years, I would process everything the same day, in between making supper and looking after the kids, often working until late in the evening. Sometimes I would have to take meals out to the field when they were haying, at the same time trying to get canning done or whatever it was I was busy with.
I don’t do that anymore. I pick one day, shell the next, and if I run out of time, I blanch and freeze the next day. You can keep peas fresh in the fridge if you leave them in the shell overnight, or when they are shelled in a covered ice cream container in the fridge overnight. I don’t think it sacrifices a lot on flavor, but it sure helps keep my sanity and I don’t get all worked up and exhausted.
Let’s face it, it is a lot of work. Other vegetables like Swiss chard, beets, carrots, and corn; I pick extra when I am cooking them for a meal, and freeze what is left over. This way I don’t have to process everything at once, and I still get my veggies in the freezer.
Below are some pictures that show a few different stages of peas.
What are you short cuts when it comes to preserving your vegetables? Leave a comment!
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. Audrey Hepburn
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