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In M.F.K. Fisher’s An Alphabet for Gourmets, “P” is for peas. “I can compare bliss with near bliss, for I have often, blessed me, eaten superlative green peas,” Fisher writes.
How to buy: Local shoppers will have a challenging time following Fisher’s dictate that peas “must be shelled at the very last second of the very last minute.” A tour of the Dupont farmers market turned up no English peas—only the eat-the-whole pod sugar snap variety (from Spring Valley Farm at $4 a box) and some delectable looking pea vines (from Gardner’s Gourmet at $6 a half pound). Garner’s Produce had English peas at Penn Quarter and 14th and U streets market ($4 for a pint in-shell). But that may not last.
“I can sell them one week in-shell by the pint, like a novelty item, but the next week they won’t go unless they are shelled,” Garner’s Bernard Boyle told me. He’ll have them shelled and in pods for 2–3 weeks—once it gets hot, peas become tough and white.
How to cook: The sugar snaps need no cooking—just rinse and eat. I subbed the pea vines for lettuce on a steak sandwich.
The English peas were the real treat. Shelling went easily with the addition of a Fisher-prescribed glass of wine. I “sweated” the peas according to the Joy of Cooking’s instructions (simmer in butter and a few tablespoons of water with onion, sugar and salt until tender; shake frequently) and served them with mashed potatoes. It was summer perfection.
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Photo by Phoebe Connell