Gardening to my Dad is somewhat of a labor of love. My Dad is an excellent gardener, his gardens are full of supreme wonder, beauty, and filled with love. He is meticulous in the way he plants, and has wonderful things to share not only his family but friends as well. If you were ever able to see one of my Dad’s vegetable gardens you would understand what I mean. Perfectly positioned rows filled with a variety of vegetables, planted to eat, can, freeze, and savor for seasons to come. I have fond memories of gardening with my dad and it is something that we continued to do as I became an adult. We always get together before spring to talk about what plants we want to grow. There are old favorites, things we choose to skip due to the abundance of last years crop, and new plants that we want to try. Usually we get together to purchase our plants then comes planting them in perfectly spaced rows. Dad takes care of rototilling throughout the season to keep the weeds down, and when harvest time rolls around my mom and I begin canning and freezing some amazing stuff. We make a chunky roasted tomato sauce, salsa, stewed tomatoes, and our version of jarred tomato sauce. There are also canned green beans, dilly beans, tomatillo sauce, and the list goes on. It gives us all a sense of accomplishment.
My Dad grew up near the same land on which he now lives. His dad was a farmer. My view of the words farmer and gardener are very different due to how my grandfather is. I am sure he taught my Dad how to plant a garden and work the land with a tractor, plow, and a variety of tools. But he did it is such a way that didn’t cultivate good memories. He was good with plants, but not his own people. My Dad never speaks of such things, but being that I still see and hear my grandpa from time to time, I have a sense of understanding of how things were. Life on a farm is hard I am sure, but some people have a way of making it harder. (Such is also true of life). Gardening too can be difficult but at the same time fun, if you are taught by a kind and generous person. I describe my Dad this way. And I am proud to say, my Dad has been described this way by many people near and far. I was and am truly blessed.
Wasting is something that we try very hard not to do. There are times however that things come up and the produce just isn’t picked when it is at it peak. Last week such was the case. My parents were away helping my brother work on his house as he is hoping to sell it at some point. Sugar snap peas were ready and we planted a whole row about 40 feet in length. Last monday I headed over to the garden to pick them on my day off. There were so many. I could not believe the quantity! I picked handfuls after handfuls of peas. Dropping some from my overstuffed palms I bent over to pick them up and soon discovered more clinging to the vine that I had missed. Many of them were quite large, almost bursting at the seams. The outer pod was no longer smooth, it was bumpy, swollen, with a pox marked appearance. Yet I continued to pick each one despite the way it looked. “What would I do with these marred, unpleasing in appearance sugar snap peas?”, I asked myself. Deciding to open up the pod, I discovered inside beautiful grassy green, crunchy little peas that were perfect. They still had value and goodness inside.
People too can be like that. Who knows what makes a person choose to be mean, cantankerous, sarcastic and at times downright hateful. Maybe someone in their past discarded them like a bumpy, swollen, pox marked sugar snap pea and they want to take it out on those closest to them. Maybe they didn’t get a second look, or even a deeper look. Maybe they had been overlooked at one time, or not even properly estimated. Maybe too they lacked understanding of a situation and after being informed of all the facts continued to stubbornly hold on to their own precious viewpoint. Whatever the reason, I learned a few deeper lessons from gardening with my Dad. It has nothing to do with gardening, or even food for that matter, gardening with Dad taught me life lessons. Forgive. Be nice. Never underestimate or overestimate anything, and sometimes you must cut your loses. Don’t judge a book by its cover, especially if it is lacking some outward beauty. It still has value. Just like those ugly peas. Inside most of them were still good, crunchy, and sweet. It was the outer pod or husk that was rough around the edges. But those ugly peas were able to be incorporated into a tasty, satisfying dish. In fact they made the dish what it was.
I am very thankful that my Dad didn’t let bad experiences as a kid turn him off from gardening. He didn’t let it damper his enthusiasm and because of his moving on, he taught us quite a lot, giving us positive hardworking experiences. At the same time it taught us important life lessons that I will never forget. Plus we made wonderful memories through delicious wholesome food. He still seeks out some assistance with gardening from a farmer that is quite rough around the edges (and slightly deeper).
I hope you enjoy this dish. It was a long time in the making. Get gardening, make the world a better place from the inside out.
- 1 pound shaped pasta
- 8 oz fresh spinach
- ⅓ cup good tasting olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves
- 10 oz peas (weight after shelling)
- 3 medium zucchini
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper
- additional olive oil
- Boil salted water for pasta and prepare desired shape according to package directions.
- In food processor, pulse 8 oz spinach, 3 garlic cloves, 1 tsp salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Slowly add ⅓ cup olive oil through food processors feed tube until incorporated. Set aside.
- Dice zucchinis to size slightly larger then size of peas.
- Add a little olive oil to 12 oz skillet over medium heat. Place 10 oz shelled peas (you may also use frozen peas if fresh are not available) and remaining garlic clove crushed, sautéeing for about 5 to 7 minutes. Add zucchini to skillet and continue to cook until zucchini is softened and veggies are heated through.
- Toast walnuts in dry pan over medium-high heat, watching closely so as not to burn.
- Once pasta is cooked, drain quickly. A little of the pasta water remaining on pasta is good for the sauce. Return to cooking pot.
- Add pesto over pasta stirring to coat. Add veggies over pasta and stir again.
- Stir half of walnuts into pasta.
- Serve immediately with additional walnuts over top as garnish.
Cooks tip: In step 7, drain pasta in colander quickly but not completely. The pesto is a dry sauce, the additional pasta water with the added starch and salt not only adds flavor to the sauce but helps it to stick to the pasta. You may also want to remove 1/2 cup of pasta water prior to draining, then add some or all of it back to pasta after pesto is mixed in as desired.
Eric recommends: Magic Hat’s Cucumber Hibiscus Beer to accompany this dish.