May 03, 2004
Grow Your Own Chinese Vegetables,
Evidently the mainstream US didn't know about snow peas in 1978. This from a Northeast gardening book, so maybe they'd made it into common diet on the West Coast already; but good gracious, what persistence of ignorance over gusto.
Harrington gives gardening advice, simple recipes, and amusing factods for a couple score Chinese vegetables (some could equally be counted as Japanese or Middle Eastern or African, but she seems to have fallen in love in a Chinese cooking class). Many of the vegetables are now easy to find in any Seattle grocery, and the gardening advice is slightly wrong for our climate, but it's a good minor document for that shift in American eating which I think of as Escape from the Iceberg Lettuce.
I was actually looking for Asian collard greens. I didn't find one here, but that faithful and ancient Brassica could have travelled that far.
So wrote clew in
Colin Spencer's excellent The Vegetable Book makes no mention of Asian collard greens, either, but the history and recipes in the Cruciferae chapter alone -- not just for cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and rutabaga, but also for mustard greens (a favorite of mine), mizuna, bok choy, sweet rocket, seakale, and others -- are reason enough to give the book a look. And Spencer notes that the snow pea "was known in France sixty years before the advent of the green pea that so delighted Louis XIV", and that "this type is associated with Chinese and Japanese cooking, but originated in the Mediterranean region" (157).
It shouldn't surprise me that snow peas were forgotten for a while, given what else was abandoned in the Bland Age; but it does. They're sweet, who wouldn't like them?
They aren't mentioned in Isabella Beeton's Book of Household Management (instead she boils English peas with a little sugar and salt).
Patrick Whitefield's How to Make a Forest Garden describes a set of old-fashioned greens that can be harvested even in shade; good for me as that's what I've got. Salad burnet is pretty, and I like the taste well enough; mâche is enthusiastic, but the texture turns me off; I haven't planted any Good Kng Henry yet.