Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sophia Garden Awakes and Spring Pea and Tarragon Soup Cocktail

I plunge my hands into my pockets and shiver as I stand at the periphery of a large, fallow vegetable patch at Sophia Garden. It has been a chilly, wet morning and there is only a smattering of volunteers milling about. The organic garden has been slumbering for many months but will shortly stir again, yielding some 35 different kinds of vegetables.

Long ago a poet wrote, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” At this moment in time, the garden is serenely quiet, but still ripe with potential.

Cat Lavallee is the new farmer at Sophia Garden. She is 27-years-old and has come from Rhode Island where she worked for two years as an intern at Rabbit’s Dance Farm in Cumberland, RI and Grateful Farm in Franklin, MA. This is her first time as head grower on a farm. She is a petite woman, bundled in layers of work clothes to protect against the cold. Bright, expressive eyes peak out from under the rim of her thick dark cap.

I wonder how a farmer interprets the garden. Since the purpose is to grow food for cooking, does the farmer think more about the plant, or the food? What does the farmer do to influence the flavor of the vegetables we ultimately eat?

“When you pick it is very important,” says Cat, “picking it when it’s just right. We basically pick the vegetable the day we’re giving it out, so it’s at peak taste.”

This is pea staking day. There are ten pea beds at Sophia Garden. Peas are a shallow-rooted plant and thrive in cool weather. The plants will vine up tall stakes, and be ready for picking in about one-to-two months. As the summer progresses, heat-loving vegetables, like eggplant and peppers will dominate the garden.

In all, there are actually three-to-four mini-seasons that will occur over the duration of the 2009 growing season at Sophia Garden.

“You’re always planting and always harvesting,” says Cat as she heads off to supervise the pea staking. “It’s ongoing. It’s kind of like life.”

As we anticipate the first harvest of spring peas, here’s a taste of what’s to come. Simple preparation and just a few ingredients bring out the fresh, lively taste of spring peas in this soup starter course. Serve in cocktail glasses to highlight the vibrant green color.

Spring Pea and Tarragon Soup Cocktail (Yield: 6 Servings)

2 T butter
1 shallot minced
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
2 cups fresh peas
1 T chopped tarragon
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and white pepper to taste
2-3 T heavy cream

Melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook the shallot until softened.

Add chicken stock and water and bring to boil Add peas and reduce heat. Let simmer no more than 5 minutes. Peas should be crisp-tender. Add chopped tarragon and lemon juice and puree in blender.

Return soup to pot and add salt and pepper to taste. Blend in cream. Let soup cool slightly, or serve chilled. This allows the flavor of the peas and herbs to emerge.
UPDATE: Read more about the daily rythmns of Sophia Garden at the "Chez Aurora" blog.

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Julia said...

So interesting! I love tales from the farm.

I just planted peas yesterday and see my tarragon poking its nose up, so I'll definitely have to bookmark this recipe.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I love how, by being a member of the Sophia Garden CSA, you are developing a deep attachment to everything about the farm -- not just the food, but the people behind the food. I'm looking forward to following your reports (and recipe experiments) throughout the season.

Colette Burke said...

How wonderfully reassuring it is to reflect that the seasons turn and Nature offers her bounties to us despite the economic gloom.
May your time at the garden provide nourishment for both mind and body.

Elyse said...

What a refreshing looking cocktail. The pictures of the garden are just exquisite!

Foodiewife said...

Besides, being completely captivated by your delightful writing style... I have been craving pea soup for over a week! I had been toying with using tarragon...and now, you have given me exactly the recipe I want. In California, gardening season already starting. My tarragon is beginning to come alive, ready to take over my herb garden. Perfect!

Donna-FFW said...

Oh My! Does this ever sound so delicious!! I love your photos, I so enjoyed seeing the farm! This cocktail though is amazing!Nice to meet you.. my firsttime here:)

veron said...

This is fantastic , T.W. , I love hearing your stories about farm to table food. Great pictures and love that familiar quote from the poet!

Jann said...

What a great farm! Will you be plantning here~I am not sure how all of this works....but, what a great place this is! I especially loved the pea cocktail ~love the peas! Nice bowls.........a touch of class!

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

We spend summers gardening when I was growing up. I miss the fresh veggies. Beautiful soup.

~~louise~~ said...

Its that time of year again T.W. Oh how wonderful!!! I'm so glad you are putting on your "straw hat" and digging in.

From the looks of the farmers in PA, I would say they first worry about the plants then reap the fruits of their labor. As for me, I "influence" my plants with companion planting. Carrots Love Tomatoes you know:)

I can't wait to read more of your tales from the oasis...

Anonymous said...

Oh it's too bad they fired Cat the very next day after the peas went in.

Such is the element at SG. Very negative and narrowminded.

Kathy said...

I'm glad you're participating again this year, T.W. I look forward to more inspiring posts on how you prepare your share of the harvests. I don't think I've ever had fresh green peas. Too hot down here.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Food tastes better when you are intimately connected to its grower. What an inspiring post, TW. Thank you for sharing.