A lesson on pronunciation and planting peas

Published 5:45 am Saturday, February 17, 2018

Now that winter is rearing its icy head, I am not one of those people who wax nostalgic about fireplaces and heating their homes with open fireplaces or wood/coal burning stoves or furnaces.

Okay, class, I’m just wondering how many of you pronounce the first “r” when you say, “February?” Please hold up your hands and proceed to enunciate the way you use the name of the current month in everyday conversation.

I once asked my favorite college professor, Dr. Ruth Garnett, if I could be excused from class to travel with the basketball team on “Feb-ah-warey,” name a date, and she stared at me across her glasses as though she was about to go into shock.

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Then she said, “Mr. Adams, (all of Dr. Garnett’s students were Mister or Miss whatever. No first names, ever) if you will properly enunciate the date, I will gladly excuse you from that class.”

It took me several tries but I finally pronounced “Feb-ru-er-ee” to her satisfaction.

Dr. Garnett has been on the other side of life for many years. She would be horribly disappointed to know that I still say, “Febahwarey” but I’m betting she would be pleased to know that almost every time I say it, I fondly think of her and I do spell it correctly, almost every time.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already planted your peas, Mike Mitchell and my brother, Keeter, who live there at Redstar, in Letcher County would tell you that you’re running late. But better late, than too late, is my personal take on pea planting. After May 1 it will be too late unless you plan to grow a fall crop, in which case they need to be planted by Aug.15.

However, since I’m actually writing this piece on Feb.12, I do have some seeds laid out on my desk that will go into a 5 gallon planter on Valentine’s Day just so I can say I actually did it.

Last February, Sue Ramsey, a reader in Pike County, emailed to ask me if I’d ever grown dwarf gray sugar “salad” peas. I told her I hadn’t seen that variety since 1985 or thereabouts and that they were a favorite with my Mom and some of her friends when I was growing up on Blair Branch in the 1950s. Like Sue, mom called them salad peas because some folks liked to serve them raw or in salads.

Three days after our computerized conversation, the mail man delivered a zip lock sandwich bag full of dwarf gray sugar pea seeds that Sue said her family had been growing and saving seeds from year to year since back in the 19th century. I promptly planted a handful in the aforementioned planter/container sitting on a stoop beside the house where it gets the morning sun. The pea vines thrived.

I had forgotten that dwarf gray sugar pea vines are much darker green than other varieties and that the main stems are nearly red. While other varieties have snow white blooms, dwarf grays have blossoms that combine lavender, pink and deep purple shades that are pretty enough to grace a flower garden, even without the delicious, extra benefits.

Dwarf gray sugar peas are actually snow peas as opposed to snap peas or shell peas. The pods are flat like other snow pea varieties and the pods are a tad shorter, about 3 inches on average. I suspect they are called “dwarf” because the vines, which do need to be trellised, only grow to about 4 feet in length. However if the pods are allowed to fill out to maturity they still cook up very tender, much like snap peas and green beans. In my humble opinion they are the sweetest pea, under Heaven, when eaten raw, straight off the vine.

I saved a handful of seed from last year’s crop, enough to plant a few on Febahwarey 14th and then a few, later on, in the main garden. Unlike most “modern” peas, dwarf grays are open-pollinated and their seeds can be saved from year to year without any worries that the next crop will be tough-hulls.

Google dwarf gray sugar peas and you will find a few companies out there selling them. Sue Ramsey said she was thinking about listing hers on eBay.

If you enjoy snow peas in stir fries, salads, or steamed and buttered as a side dish, you’re going to love dwarf gray sugar peas. If you prefer snap peas, you’ll soon discover that dwarf grays fit that bill as well. And, if you take a little time to save some seed from this year’s crop, you won’t have to worry about finding some place buy them come 2019.

Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Ike Adams at ikeadams@aol.com or on Facebook or 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.