With warm weather and robin songs come the sounds of planting. Tillers roaring to life, row stakes being driven in the soft garden soil and moans and groans as unused muscles rebel at the sudden activity. Bending and stretching, we step into spring gardening.
My great-grandpa, George Leach, planted his potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day so there would be new potatoes to cream with fresh peas for Memorial Day supper. He lived just outside Jackson, Ohio, between the town and McKitrick Heights, a little housing development in those days.
The potatoes were planted on the east side of a sandy ridge where they thrived in the well-drained soil and morning sunshine of April and May. The rest of the garden went in around the hills of potatoes.
Great-grandma Elizabeth Leach always insisted on Little Marvel peas going in as soon as possible and then lettuce and onions. As April progressed, green shoots caught their attention as they came out the back door for morning chores.
Just as they divided chores, so too with garden work. Grandma picked the peas, grandpa insisted on digging the potatoes. Care had to be taken to find some of the golf ball or smaller sized potatoes in the hills and yet not disturb the plants. They had to mature and provide the winter store of potatoes for the family.
With new potatoes and fresh peas, grandma set to work making a special Memorial Day supper that the family looked forward to all during April and May. Creamed vegetables, fried chicken, fresh wilted lettuce, green onions, canned pickled beets with eggs, and dessert of chocolate cake or Grandpa’s favorite-coconut cream pie graced the table.
The only sounds heard then were lips smacking and groans of contentment with a springtime meal.
Creamed New Potatoes and Peas
1 pound whole new potatoes, tiny to golf ball size
1-1/2 cups fresh peas
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
Rinse potatoes well and place in a saucepan with enough water to barely cover them. Boil gently till tender, about 10 minutes. In another saucepan, boil peas in water till tender, about 10 minutes also. Drain both and keep hot in the larger of the pots used.
In small saucepan, cook onion in butter till soft. Stir in flour, then add milk while stirring constantly. Stir and cook until thick and smooth. Add salt and pepper if desired. Pour over hot vegetables and toss gently to coat. Hint: If you don’t have the potatoes, you can use more peas and have creamed new peas.
Serve hot. Makes about 4 servings.
4 cups small red radishes, washed, trimmed
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
Cook radishes in water to cover for about 20-25 minutes if whole. They should be tender crisp. If sliced much less time is needed. We like them whole if they are tiny. Drain, add butter, salt and pepper. Serve hot. Hint: cooking takes some of the bite out of radishes. Can also be cooked and a white sauce added like new peas.