It may be January, with a windchill of -30 outside – but inside the peas and corn are thriving. This is because they are for eating as young shoots, when the tender plants reach a height of just one or two inches.
I had wondered what to do with several pounds of decorative Indian corn seed I had saved for a number of years. And I had a jar of dried grey peas that simply went too far on the vines last summer. These days it’s cool (and nutritious) to eat tender shoots as greens, so I planted up a tray of the two seeds together in mid-December, very thickly, and waited to see what happened. Presoaking the seed first helped with the speed of germination, and keeping the tray warm by the fire kept damping-off at bay.
And within two weeks, the little pea heads and the curled towers of corn were rising quickly. As they reached the two-inch stage, I plucked off a few tops, and the taste was a total surprise. The pea tops were tender and flavourful, like a new garden pea crossed with an asparagus tip, and the corn shoots were spicy and pungent. They can be popped into salads, sandwiches, a last-minute garnish for soups, or very briefly sautéed for a hot presentation.
Clipped off carefully, the sprouts will regrow a few times with luck, and give us a little jump on the green of spring. And it’s a beautiful sight for winter-weary eyes to feast upon a little sea of new life, long before it’s time to start our regular seed trays for the summer garden. When the planter with its peas and corn is finally exhausted, the chickens in the henhouse can scratch and pick over the remains, and dream of warmer weather.
– Kim Langen writes from Holmfield, Manitoba