This week I got to the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market in time to get fresh peas. You see, last week when I met Ramon Corona at his market table on a Tuesday morning, early shoppers had already scooped up the prize.
But pea season is officially here now, and Corona has plenty more than the scant three boxes he had with him that first week in late May. He also still has lots of spring onions, green garlic, radishes and spinach for sale, but who can resist freshly picked sweet peas?
Corona is the 24-year-old son of Salvador Corona, a farmer who has been selling at area growers markets for about 15 years, ever since he arrived in northern New Mexico from Mexico.
Though he has been farming with his dad for 13 years, this is the younger Corona’s first year selling on his own. He pays for his own seeds, his own gas to get to market, his own vendor fees and for his brothers’ help harvesting if he needs it. His dad “lends” him some of his rented farmland in Española to plant the crops.
|June growers’ markets
Welcome to the new markets this year in Deming, Lake Arthur, Lordsburg, Lovington, Santa Rosa and Timberon, joining the more than 75 markets held around the state. For a complete list, visit us at www.FarmersMarketsNM.org or on Facebook. Many markets accept SNAP, WIC and senior vouchers.Albuquerque Downtown Growers’ Market, Robinson Park, Eighth & Central. Saturdays, 7 a.m.-noon.Albuquerque Northeast Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market, west side of Albuquerque Academy, 6400 Wyoming NE (enter the school’s campus at Burlison Road). Tuesdays, 3-7 p.m.Albuquerque Nob Hill Growers’ Market, Morningside Park, Lead & Morningside SE. Thursdays, 3-6:30 p.m.Albuquerque Presbyterian Northeast, Presbyterian Hospital parking lot at 1300 block of Central Ave. SE. Tuesdays, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. OPENS June 25.
Albuquerque South Valley Growers’ Market, Cristo Del Valle Presbyterian Church, 3907 Isleta Blvd. SW. Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon. OPENS June 22 (final spring market is June 15 from 9:30-11:30 a.m.).
Armijo Village Growers’ Market (South Valley), SW corner of Isleta Boulevard & Arenal Road. Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon.
Belen Growers’ Market, Anna Becker Park, Hwy. 309/Reinken Ave. Fridays, 4:30-7 p.m.
Bosque Farms Growers’ Market, 1090 North Bosque Loop. Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon.
Cedar Crest Farmers’ Market, 12242 N. Hwy. 14. Wednesdays, 3-6:30 p.m. OPENS June 19.
Corrales Growers’ Market, Recreation Center, 500 Jones Road & Corrales Road, south of the post office. Sundays, 9 a.m.-noon.
Edgewood Farmers’ Market, Tractor Supply Company, 5 Marietta Court. Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-noon. OPENS June 22.
Eldorado Farmers’ Market, La Tienda parking lot, 7 Caliente Road. Fridays, 4-7 p.m.
Española Farmers’ Market, 1005 N. Railroad Ave. Mondays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. & Fridays, 2 p.m.-7 p.m. (peak season).
Las Cruces Farmers’ & Crafts Market, Downtown Mall. Saturdays & Wednesdays, 8 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.
Las Cruces Mountain View Sunday Growers’ Market, north side of Idaho Crossings parking lot at 1300 El Paseo. Sundays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Las Vegas, Tri-County Market, Sixth & University. Saturdays & Wednesdays, 7 a.m.-sellout.
Los Alamos Farmers’ Market, Mesa Public Library parking lot, Central & Bathtub. Thursdays, 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Los Lunas Farmers’ Market, 3447 Lambros Circle. Tuesdays, 4-7 p.m.
Los Ranchos Growers’ Market, tennis court parking lot at 6718 Rio Grande NW. Saturdays, 7 a.m.-noon.
Mountainair Farm & Garden Market, corner of Hwy. 60 & Roosevelt St. Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Pojoaque Farmers’ Market, Poeh Cultural Center, 78 Cities of Gold Road off Hwy. 84/285. Wednesdays, noon-6 p.m. (Sundays start in July).
Santa Fe Arroyo Vino Farmers’ Market, 218 Camino la Tierra. Thursdays, noon-3 p.m. OPENS June 20.
Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, Farmers’ Market Pavilion, 1607 Paseo de Peralta. Tuesdays and Saturdays, 7 a.m.-noon.
Santa Fe Southside Farmers’ Market, Home Depot parking lot, Richards Road. Tuesdays, 3:30-6:30 p.m. OPENS June 26.
Silver City Farmers’ Market, 707 Bullard St. Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-noon.
Socorro Farmers’ Market, Socorro Plaza Park. Saturdays, 9-11 a.m. & Tuesdays, 5-7 p.m. (summer only).
Taos Farmers’ Market, 400 Camino de la Placita. Saturdays, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Taos Pueblo – Red Willow Farmers’ Market, Veteran’s Highway, Taos Pueblo. Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
“I want to try and be on my own to see what my dad loves so much,” says Corona, whose wife, Nayeli, also helps in the fields and at market.
Corona planted about 40 rows of peas, each 100 feet long, in February. In March they started coming up. Peas like the cold, so this spring has been good for them.
“People love peas, but they are hard to pick. You have to feel every pod to see if they are ready. There are about 14 per plant, but maybe only five or six are ready at the same time. You have to feel each one to see if the little balls inside are ready. And you have to be on your knees to pick them,” he explains.
Humans have cultivated peas for at least 12,000 years, making them one of the earliest crops, but it was centuries before gardeners developed peas that could be eaten fresh instead of only dried.
At one time they were grown only in kitchen gardens – as opposed to field peas grown among crops in the field – but eventually they enchanted even royalty. During the late 17th century, peas were so expensive that only kings could enjoy them, and shelled peas became a food craze in the court of King Louis XIV, where the elite consumed them like candy.
For many growers like Corona, peas are an important crop because they help bridge the gap between the winter and summer harvest seasons, providing them with much needed cash flow at a time when summer crops need maintenance but are not yet producing income.
Pea season is about six weeks long, and in central and northern New Mexico, you can expect to find them from late May through early July. The season ends earlier in warmer climes and extends longer where it is cooler. Some growers also plant a fall crop because the peas like to germinate in the warm soil and then grow in the cooler months of fall up until the frost.
Garden peas are often classified into two types: traditional English peas that must be shelled, and edible-podded peas where both the peas and pods are eaten.
Edible-podded peas are further classified into two groups. “Stir-fry” types are often called sugar peas or snow peas, while the other group is called snap peas. Snap peas can be eaten raw in salads or as a snack, served raw with dips or cooked like green beans.
Like corn, peas are best eaten as soon as possible after harvest as the sugars start converting to starch the moment they are picked. For the best flavor, choose small peas, which are younger, sweeter and more tender than large ones. The peas inside should be small, bright green, and firm; if you taste one, it should be tender and sweet.
When buying fresh peas, remember that one pound of peas in their pods yields about 6 ounces (1 cup) shelled peas.
Use peas quickly or freeze them. Store pods in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator and use them within a couple of days.
Once peas are shelled, the best way to store them is to freeze them. First blanch them for a minute or two in boiling salted water and then shock them in an ice-water bath until cool to help maintain their bright color. Drain and freeze them in zip-top bags. They will keep for five to six months.
Corona sells both English peas and snap peas, and says his favorite way to eat them is in the field as he picks them, especially if he is hungry.
Fresh peas need only minimal cooking. To maintain their sweetness and bright green color, cook them only until just tender.
If you are boiling them, two to three minutes is plenty. If you are using them as part of a cooked dish, add a few at the start of cooking, to add flavor, but save most to stir in a few minutes before serving.
Peas’ mild sweetness pairs well with many different flavors. Try them with mint or other fresh spring herbs like basil, chervil, chives, tarragon or dill. Peas also play well off cured meats like bacon, pancetta and chorizo, and they complement any starch – potatoes, rice or pasta.
Throughout the season you will find Corona selling a bit of everything – cucumbers, chile, onions, melons, tomatoes, tomatillos, fava beans and more. But right now – before the July heat takes hold – make sure you get plenty of fresh peas to bring home and savor.
>Sugar Snap Pea SlawA creamy Dijon dressing, crisp snap peas and crunchy apples and cabbage make this potluck-ready salad the perfect side dish for spring. Serves 12 (Serving size: 1/2 cup) 2 cups sugar snap peas 2 medium carrots 1 small bulb fennel (6 ounces) 1 large apple 1 cup shredded red savoy cabbage or red cabbage 1 cup shredded napa cabbage 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 1 tablespoon honey 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard 1 teaspoon snipped fresh tarragon Salt Ground black pepper Cut peas, carrots, fennel and apple into julienne strips; place in a large bowl. Add cabbage; toss to combine. In a small bowl combine yogurt, apple cider vinegar, honey, mustard and tarragon. Add to vegetable mixture; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
– Adapted from: www.bhg.com/recipes/party/seasonal/pea-recipe
>Braised Peas with Spring Onions & LettuceThis is Jamie Oliver’s version of a classic French dish. He swears that you can make it in literally a few minutes and guarantees that practically everyone who turns their nose up at having some lettuce in with their peas will be converted. Serves 4 1 knob of butter Olive oil 1 heaped teaspoon flour 1 1/4 cups organic chicken or vegetable stock 6 spring onions, trimmed, outer leaves discarded, and finely sliced 1 3/4 cups fresh (or frozen) peas 2 Little Gem lettuces, sliced Sea salt Freshly ground black pepper Juice of 1 lemon Good-quality extra virgin olive oil Slowly heat the butter and a good lug of olive oil in a pan. Add the flour and stir around, then slowly pour in the stock. Turn up the heat and add the spring onions, peas and lettuce with a pinch of salt and pepper. Put the lid on and simmer for 5 minutes or until tender. Taste, correct the seasoning and squeeze in a little lemon juice. Serve drizzled with a splash of good oil. It’s fantastic served with a piece of fish. COOK’S NOTE: Little Gem lettuce is a soft lettuce with a delicate flavor and a hint of crunch.
– Adapted from: www.jamieoliver.com