I was at the market yesterday, and guess what I found... PEAS!!!! Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know how much I love peas, and how I can wax lyrical about them.
I love fresh peas.
As soon as I see the first peas from California in March, I practically mark my calendar and count the days until I see the first local pods... I confess, I did break down a few weeks ago, and bought a small basket of peas from North Carolina. They were tasty, but a little disappointing... They had become a little mealy from being on the road too long. But I was getting desperate: Miss Molly had ravaged my own peas, and the first heatwave in May had me doubting I would ever see a Quebec pea. But there you go, I was a doubting Thomas when I should not have been, and I was still rewarded with these beautifully sweet nuggets.
Peas are notorious for their love of cool, wet weather, and many a gardener in our climate rue the day they planted their rows of peas: our springs are often too short, and our summers too scorching which can result in no pods at all or mealy and bitter peas only good for drying and pea soup. There are varieties of peas better adapted to our climate, and those above certainly are part of that bunch. The peas range in size from tiny to medium-large; are sweet, sweet, sweet; and pop in the most delightful way when you bite into them. If you find some peas at the market jump on them: if the hot weather continues for the rest of the summer, there may not be much of a pea season this year. Also, most growers sell their crops on the frozen front as it is a more reliable client, and prefer bringing snow peas and sugar snaps to market because they are more heat and travel tolerant. If you cannot find fresh shelling peas, sugar snaps and snow peas are acceptable substitutes -but they are not the same...- and are available until the fall.
Ontario's stone fruits have arrived in drove, and they are truly beautiful this year. The hot weather, tempered with a good dose of rain and abundant sunshine has resulted in gorgeously plump fruits, full of sugar and juice. In previous years, the fruits have hit the market in waves, each variety giving place to the next. However, this year, plums, peaches and apricots have hit the stalls at the same time. Nectarines seem to be holding back, but it might just be that they were hiding from me.
I am having visions of peaches and cream; roasted nectarines; stewed plums; stuffed apricots...
Quebec and Ontario sweet corns are nearly three weeks early this year! I was surprised to see baskets of corn already on the stands, but they are definitely here. The ears are a good size, and the kernels are not too small. They are the first of the season though, so they are still a little pricey. But they are a good indication of what to expect for the rest of the summer. Who's up for a corn roast?
You probably have surmised by now that squashes are invasive plants and abundant producers: zucchinis and yellow squashes are no different. Although I personally prefer smaller zucchs because they are so tender and have no seeds, I cannot resist the occasional overgrown zucchini as they are so inexpensive: most growers try to give them away at a dollar apiece. The British have a way with names, and overgrown zucchinis (or courgettes as they like to call them) go by the charming name of vegetable marrow. If you are single or live in a household of picky eaters, you might want to steer clear of marrows as they are often big enough to feed an army!
Whereas small to medium-sized summer squashes are delightful eaten raw or cooked, peel, seeds and all, marrows need to be seeded before being cooked, and are tastier peeled unless you are using them as a vessel for a stuffing. For best results, prick the skin with a fork so that any excess water can escape the marrow while cooking; though the barbecue would probably make for a tasty marrow, this giant can exude a lot of juices and will be messy on the grill, so you will have to turn the oven on for this one.
In case you are wondering what is that strange beast in the above picture; it is not a squashed squash (its neighbour is a Roman zucchini, or a zucchete), but a patty pan squash, also known as a turban squash or a flying saucer. It tastes pretty much like any other summer squash, and can be eaten in the same manner. They are especially pleasant when stuffed will a piquant filling.
That's all for now, but I will be back shortly with a recipe.