Generally speaking peas still get a bad rep. Like Brussels Sprouts, some people never warmed up to them, or are burned by childhood memories of their parents trying to force feed them green vegetables. Not on Martha’s Vineyard. Here peas are celebrated and admired, especially among the youth of our community.

This month we’re helping Island Grown Schools (IGS) highlight peas as their Harvest of the Month (HOM). It’s the perfect crop to represent the essence of the HOM program and the value and importance of better connecting kids to their locally available produce. I like to consider peas a gateway vegetable. If you can get your kids to take part in the growing process, and feast on peas (especially easy with the sugar snap variety), you can get them hooked on vegetables all together.

I recently attended a grand tasting event (so to speak) at the West Tisbury School. 

Throughout the month IGS hosts several “taste tests” where they serve the Harvest of the Month as an ingredient in the local school cafeterias, to encourage students to taste it in a new or creative way and understand its flavor potential. 

The farm-to-school movement at the West Tisbury School is an especially impressive program, and Jenny DeVivo, West Tisbury School cafeteria director and rockstar head chef (she used to be a traveling recording artist so that title is two-fold) always makes it fun and interactive.

Morning Glory Farm offers another clever way to encourage participation in pea harvesting with their annual pea contest. Each year the Island’s largest operating farm hosts a “First Peas to the Table” contest inspired by Thomas Jefferson. In the 18th century Jefferson led a contest among his neighbors at Monticello garden every spring to see who could be the first to grow a cup of shelling peas, and the tradition continues on Martha’s Vineyard today.

Now in its fifth year at Morning Glory, the first person to bring a measured cup of mature shelled peas receives a Morning Glory Farm gift certificate, a voucher for a free trip to the salad bar and a delicious risotto prepared by chef Meg Athearn from the winning peas, plus bragging rights of course.

The winner is also crowned, sashed and photographed for Morning Glory’s archives–and posterity–and left to bask in the glory of their delicious achievement! This year Katie Ruppel took the prize.

What’s not to love about peas? Peas are my favorite vegetable to grow in my garden, and are one of the first things I plant once the ground thaws. They get me excited for spring, and the potential of the new season, plus they’re delicious and packed with vitamin K, A, C and fiber, folate, thiamine, protein and iron. They’re easy to throw in salad raw, or simply sautéed with garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Sugar snap peas provide a welcome crunch in rice or stir fry, and shelled peas make a good addition to pasta and risotto.

Tis the season for potlucks, BBQs, and beach picnics, so don’t forget about the powerful pea next time you’re preparing your menus. Try this easy Pea Pesto Salad recipe, prepared by Harvest of the Month chef Gabrielle Chronister, for a fresh, savory side to celebrate the season’s palatable peas.

Pea Pesto Potato Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup green peas (fresh and blanched for 1 minute or frozen and thawed)

1 cup fresh basil

2 ½ tbl nutritional yeast

1 tbl fresh lemon juice

1 medium garlic clove, chopped

1 tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tbl extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ lbs baby or new potatoes (quartered or sliced in half if small)

Directions:

Place potatoes and ½ tsp of kosher salt in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer 10-15 minutes until fork tender. Drain potatoes and set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, place remainder of ingredients except olive oil, in a food processor and pulse ingredients until everything is combined and evenly ground. With the machine running, slowly pour olive oil into the mixture and blend until smooth and creamy.

Combine the potatoes with the pesto in a serving dish, making sure all potatoes are coated in pesto. Salt if needed. Top with more nutritional yeast and fresh torn basil. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. Enjoy!