The Day of the Tendrils

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The London Times reported that the Prince of Wales was right about talking to plants. Twenty years ago, Prince Charles was ridiculed for admitting, "I just come and talk to the plants, really-very important to talk to them, they respond I find." The Royal Horticulture Society at Wisley found that plants grew faster when someone talked to them. In the experiment, they compared the growth rate of plants that volunteers read stories to against those who had no story time. It turned out that the voice of Sarah Darwin, Charles Darwin’s great-great-granddaughter, made plants grow tallest—two-thirds of an inch taller, to be precise—than other voices. The distinction won her the Voice of Wisley title. “I’m not sure if it’s my dulcet tones or the text that I read from that made the plant sit up and listen, but either way I think it is great fun and I’m proud of my new title." What did she read? Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species, of course.

Thankfully the plants that were read The Day of the Triffids weren't listening. When you see pea plants growing, you might have a flashback to the 1951 John Wyndham novel, then 1962 B-movie, about a post-apocalyptic world where everyone goes blind after a meteor shower and plants take over.   Peas are fast growing, reaching up to 14 feet within 60 days. They send out thread-like stems used as supports for climbing called “tendrils.” Charles Darwin studied tendrils in his work On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants published in 1865.

pea tendrilsLucky for us, peas are loving and tender plants. They are not Triffids, but legumes that are exceptionally nourishing. Sweet peas are the non-edible but perfumed plants that take over fences and garden walls, spreading much joy and bright flowers. Fresh pea pods, both Sugar and Snow peas, are so tender they can be eaten raw or just barely cooked. English Peas, so named because they were developed in England, are the chubby pods that provide a great source of protein when shelled. A special pea treat is the delicate Pea Tendrils, which are as tender as sprouts but with a great pea flavor.

English Peas: Shell pods and eat raw or place peas in a steamer with very little water and steam for 3 minutes, then enjoy with salted butter or in a salad.  Pea Tendrils: sauté in garlic and butter; toss raw into salad; or use as a sprouts substitution on sandwiches.

English Peas: Do not shell until right before use. Store in fridge unwashed, in plastic bag allowing for some circulation. Pea Tendrils: Store in fridge wrapped in damp paper towel inside a plastic bag.

- Heidi Lewis

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