Sweet Peas- Old & New
NEWS! The main market in Agen has moved! Moved to make way for a new Cine-plex to be built at the Place du Pin. ? Now, the weekly Sunday market has shifted over the road to the edge of the little parc on Rue Jules Ferry. Like when the big supermarkets shift products around to keep customers from getting complacent about what and how they buy, shifting the market meant I had to hunt and peck a bit more to find Phillipe and his goat cheese, the best endive on the planet, and the cilantro nestled among the onions and garlic. After 20 years of shopping at the Agen producer’s market, I have a relationship with a dozen special growers. I’ve learned who I can depend on, to trust to have the best, the freshest, the tastiest vegetables and fruit, eggs, meat and cheese. When I first came to France, I was seduced by a beret, a blue house dress, a winning smile… Then I learned how to shop.
FEATURED CROP: This week’s market in Agen was overflowing with green- weedy wild green asparagus (altogether different from California’s main crop), the first plump silvery-green artichokes, fat fava pods and the first Spring green sweet peas.
I scan the stands, tables and cartons overflowing with this week’s harvest and spotted…PEAS. Kilos and kilos of sweet fresh tender peas. STOP! Think and taste. Buying sweet peas is like buying the proverbial pig-in-a-poke. Unless you shell a few pods and taste, you can end up with a pot of dull starchy not sweet peas. These peas were too large- too long on the plant, fat but starchy not sweet peas. Those were too wrinkled- old and dried out. So I scoured and inspected until I spotted a table full of bright, shiny, firm, plump, smooth pods. Ah… Just as I was thinking eh voila! the owner of these little pods of joy passed one to me to open and taste. “Harvested last night.” He need say no more.
I bought two kilos at 3.50 euros a kilo. Two kilos, 4 & a half pounds of sweet tender green peas. Last night we had some cooked in little water, with salt and mint then finished with a knob of butter and sea salt. Today, I’ll make a chilled Sweet Pea Soup with creme fraiche for lunch. And tomorrow, I’ll cook a Navarin d’Agneau, a spring lamb braise finished with a handful of peas.
Need a little help picking out the best Sweet peas. Look at the photograph below.
The top pea on the board is older, has a white rough finish to the pod. It’s older and the pea is larger but dull tasting; it’s sugar turned to starch already.
The bottom pod is glossy smooth and waxy. The pea is smaller, firmer and sweeter.
Learning to cook at Camont is learning to shop.
Sweet Peas to you!