THE CRISP SNAP OF A SWEET PEA OR A STALK of baby asparagus is like music heralding the arrival of spring. When tender beans, stalks, and shoots start popping up above ground and at the markets, we know the world is coming out of winter hibernation.
For us, a simple springtime breakfast includes a handful of fresh sugar snap peas plucked from their dew-dripping vines and tendrils. These short, plump green pearls taste like crisp candy and make us feel like giggly kids for that part of the day.
Because peas are so plentiful on the vine, they’re made for sharing. We consider them the community vegetable; they give us the ability to feed our neighbors, our friends, and even our mailman. These are vegetables to brighten up everyone’s days.
To extend this wonderful season of beans and shoots, we immediately start the pickling process and set aside a few jars of pickled beans or asparagus to savor toward the end of the year. Our quick-pickled sugar snap peas infused with mint are always a sign that we’re embracing spring’s peak.
If you’re inclined to take pickling a few steps further, try making a batch of pickled celery using the same pickling brine as the quick pea pickles. You’ll be pleased at how fresh and delicious the savory crunch of celery can be alongside an afternoon sandwich.
Our affection for rhubarb also grows by the season. Pies, tarts, and preserves studded with its brilliant hues are not only pleasing to our eyes, but also bring pleasure to our bellies. Our latest crush on rhubarb is in the form of a bread pudding, and the recipe is included in this chapter. You must give this unique bread pudding a try.
Last but not least, a discussion of this group of vegetables would not be complete without mention of fresh baby shoots and tendrils of all kinds. Loaded into salads to replace lettuce, or used as garnish on top of grilled dishes for extra texture, shoots can easily revitalize a sleepy dish.