Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pickling Peas and Onion Updates

The garden is really in full swing now.

Up here in the coast range, our growing season is three to four weeks behind the valley. When I lived in Portland, my peas would be eight feet tall and almost finished by now, the beginning of July. Up here, they are really just beginning.

Way back in February, during a beautiful stretch of warm days, we planted a bed of pea starts from my dad. They were snowed on three times and have seen many cold and wet days. It took them awhile to really get going [in fact, I have decided that planting peas outdoors that early is not worth it. I have other peas that I planted in late April from seed, and they have grown much taller than this bed of peas.] They are hardy little peas, however, and now they are gifting us with many handfuls of beautiful green pods every day. Plenty for eating, and enough left over for pickling...

I love pickled peas ("peacles," I like to call them). I don't pickle them with a vinegar brine; I let nature do the work for me. They are lacto-fermented peas.

Lacto-fermentation is the process by which beneficial bacteria create lactic acid, which naturally preserves food and gives it a sour, tangy taste. It is the traditional way of making yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and many other traditional foods from around the world. Lacto-fermentation enhances the digestibility of food and increases vitamin levels, as well as providing beneficial bacteria for your digestive system. And it's super easy! [If you would like to learn more about lacto-fermentation, please check out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz or Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.]

This is how the kids and I started our peas on the road to fermentation:
We washed our peas and placed them in widemouth canning jars, along with oregano and garlic. We mixed up a brine of a scant tablespoon salt (I prefer to use RealSalt) per cup of water. We poured the brine over the pickles, and that is it!

I place a smaller jar of water inside the pea jar, to push the peas below the brine. Anything sticking up above the brine will mold; everything submerged in the brine will ferment [I usually get a film of mold on the top of the jars. I just scrape it off, and everything underneath is fine.] Covering the whole thing with cheesecloth or a dish towel to keep fruit flies away, I let the peas go for about a week. If they are not yet tangy enough, I let them go more [the hotter the weather, the faster the ferment]. When they have fermented enough for my taste [usually no more than two weeks], I store them in the refrigerator, where they'll last for about three months.

In addition to the peas, I've also been wanting give an update on the no-dig garden bed we built on Easter. It seems to be working! The onions are looking beautiful, and when I stick my hand into it, all I feel is soil.


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