tasting first peas to the table by susan grigsby and nicole tadgell


Peas, please!

Surely they’re the most social of all vegetables — you rarely see or eat just one and they’re happiest out of their shells — canoodling in congenial groups, basking in their perfect orbed greenness, even more resplendent adorned with a buttery sheen.

Thomas Jefferson was certainly onto them. The English or Garden Pea is considered his favorite vegetable, judging by the sheer quantity of pea plantings and number of harvests at Monticello, as well as the amount of garden space regularly allotted to it.

(Click for Mary Randolph’s Fresh Peas with Mint recipe)

Every Spring, Jefferson and his neighbors had a “First Peas to the Table” contest, a race to see whose peas would be ready first. The winner would host a dinner party, proudly serving his peas to the other contestants. Apparently, Jefferson rarely won, but like his eager friends, fully appreciated the greater prize — honoring a beloved tradition where all could celebrate the joys of gardening and the power of the pea to bring people together.

Since I’ve always been interested in Jefferson’s gardening and gourmandizing, I was happy to see First Peas to the Table by Susan Grigsby and Nicole Tadgell (Albert Whitman, 2012), a lovely story where school children plant a kitchen garden like Jefferson’s and have a pea growing contest of their own.


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