Snap! Celebrating fresh peasJuly 20th, 2020
The delicate crunch of a fresh English pea in the height of midsummer – enough to seduce anyone into growing their own. Perfectly tender, moreishly sweet, best popped straight from the pod and into your mouth.
From early July we begin harvesting peas and runner beans to see us through the season. Those that don’t meet their fate as a quick snack for peckish gardeners, make their way to the kitchens and Farm Shop.
Though first cultivated in the Middle Ages, green peas became popular in Europe in the 17th Century. In France they were a luxury beloved almost obsessively by the court of King Louis XIV. He imported vast quantities from Genoa in Italy – encased in roses to keep them fresh – and would have vast bowls of petits pois delivered to courtiers’ bedchambers for post-supper devouring. Madame Maintenon, nanny to the king’s children, once observed:
“We are still on the chapter of peas. Impatience to eat them, the pleasure of having eaten them, and the anticipation of eating them again.”
Over in the West Country, things were rather less flamboyant but no less delicious. A popular dish around the 18th Century was fresh peas gently stewed in butter, with young lettuce and fresh garden mint.
True to our roots, we are growing two varieties down in our kitchen garden. The ‘Rondo’ pea – one of the best cropping varieties, yielding around 10 plump peas for every long, straight pod – and the ‘Blauschokker’ pea – an old heirloom variety with deep purple pods and vibrant flowers.
These tender crops require tender care. Plants are supported with specially built frames; pods are picked regularly (around four times a week) to encourage growth; and leaves or pods that form powdery mildew are snipped to prevent disease spreading.
Raw peas are perfectly special all on their own, but if you’ve eaten too many bowlfuls you can also try them in salads and light summer dishes. Try the recipe overleaf from our new Tasting Menu in The Botanical Rooms, to see what good a little smoke can do.
SMOKED PEAS & TARRAGON
Serves 4-6 for lunch
“The pod is just as good as the pea – we use all of it in this dish, nothing goes to waste.”
Alan Stewart, Estate Head Chef
You will need:
- 3k fresh peas in their pods
- 1x bunch fresh tarragon
- 1x lemon
- Salt & pepper
- Grill 2kg of peas in their pods over smoking wood (we use applewood) until they are nicely charred and smoked.
- Chill quickly to keep the peas inside fresh.
- Pod them, keeping both the charred pods and peas.
- Take the charred pods and remaining 1kg of fresh peas, and blend to a juice.
- Season the pea juice with salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and some freshly chopped tarragon. Plate up the smoked peas, and dress in the pea juice.