Mind your peas and carrots -- now!
English peas: Even though so many of our traditional farmers-market signals of spring have been converted to year-round production, there’s one that has resisted all attempts: the pea. Called English peas to differentiate them from snow peas or sugar snap peas, they are around only in the cool part of the spring. When the weather turns warm, they wilt away to nothing. Here’s my favorite way to eat them, learned from my old friend, cookbook writer Sylvia Thompson: Simmer the peas in their pods in a skillet with about 1 inch of water and a nice chunk of butter. Cook them just until the pods glow and begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Drain, sprinkle generously with coarse salt and then eat them by popping the whole pod in your mouth and pulling it out between your teeth. You get a scraping of slightly bitter green from the pod and then the explosion of sweet green flavor from the peas themselves. Do this only with close friends: You’ll wind up with mouths smeared with butter and mounds of discarded pea hulls.
McGrath Family Farms, $4.75 per pound, $4.75 per half-pound shelled.
Specialty carrots: Remember when carrots were orange? Today, you can find them in a surprising assortment of colors: Royal Scarlets that are so red they’re almost purple; Solar carrots that are a sunny yellow; Lunar carrots that are pure white; and Atomic carrots that are a candy-apple red. Even the old-fashioned orange carrot doesn’t have to be plain -- chubby, stubby Nantes carrots are sweet with a slim core. Though once there was a craze for baby carrots, it seems like the bigger the better these days. There’s a reason for that: The longer a carrot is in the ground, the longer it has to develop sugar -- at least as long as the weather stays cool. When the weather warms, carrots begin to accumulate starch rather than sugar. There’s a downside to size, as the tough woody cores in mature carrots tend to be larger too. But these can be easily trimmed away before cooking.
Coastal Organics, $2 per bunch.
-- Russ Parsons