The most garden-y of vegetables

Steam with luscious gold new potatoes, tiny onions and eat smothered with butter, salt, and pepper

After a cold, dark early spring—when it seemed like the peas would never sprout, and once they did, as though some little varmint (maybe a cat, maybe something else) would eat them in their infancy—the peas have finally blossomed. The flowers look like little white bonnets bobbing in the wind.

The little dwarf plants blossomed first, and are now adorned with delicate green pods, but the vines of Swenson Swedish have begun to fruit, too. We’ll be going away for a little over a week, and hopefully we don’t miss the best of these early spring delicacies.

After tomatoes, I think of peas as one of the most garden-y vegetables, probably because they’re one of the first of the summer, and one I used to help my dad plant and harvest while growing up in Kansas before summer heat and bugs made gardening a lot less attractive. My mom would steam them with luscious gold new potatoes and tiny onions and we’d eat them liberally dosed with butter, salt, and pepper. There is nothing better.

I can’t be the only gardener forever doing things I know better than to do. This year, that’s crowding plants into the handful of pots and growing containers I have on hand, and probably not using enough soil/compost. Specifically, I’ve gone ahead and planted my tomato plants in the same pots—I imagine superior gardeners are reading this and cringing—as my pea plants. What?! In my defense—peas are an early spring crop. Either they will fruit and then die, or it will become too hot and they’ll stop producing peas. I think. And then I can chop them down and let the tomatoes take over! At least that’s what I’m hoping.

Peas also fix nitrogen in the soil, which I think is good for plants, tomatoes specifically, but I must admit I haven’t fact checked this assumption.

In any case, you will not be surprised to know the tomatoes planted on their own are much larger than the ones bunking with the peas, but I’m hoping over the long term they will all even out! Gardening is a forever experiment, and in any case we’re signed up for a CSA so we will be getting delicious tomatoes this summer no matter what.

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In memoriam

I was saddened to learn that Mary Anne Kowalski, one of the sources for my recent Grist story, unexpectedly passed away earlier this month. While I didn’t quote Mary Anne directly, she was an invaluable resource in helping understand the long history of the Greenidge plant as well as the activism against the current iteration. She responded promptly to my fact checking requests and generously shared the public documents she acquired under New York’s Freedom of Information Law. As Peter Mantius writes in a tribute Mary Anne, her death is “a body blow to the region.” (Mantius temporarily took his post down but it will be restored next week after the tribute runs in a local paper.)

“As much as she will be missed,” writes Michael Fitzgerald, who was for a time on the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association board while Mary Anne was president, “friends who knew her best say that instead of sad thoughts and flowers, she would want people to pick up the cudgel she wielded so effectively and continue to fight for clean air, water, and a healthy environment.”

Reading list

Joshua trees could lose all of their habitat in their namesake national park by the end of the century. That’s just one devastating fact among many in this recent article on how climate change threatens national parks, and how park managers are trying to help conserve and protect as many native species as they can (Zoë Schlanger for The New York Times). Related, maybe? California fire crews found a Sequoia tree in Sequoia National Park that’s been burning since the 2020 Castle Fire, which, suffice to say, is not normal (Adventure Journal). New Yorkers apparently LOVE Little Island, the private elevated park constructed over the Hudson and paid for by billionaire Barry Diller, but word on Twitter is that it’s got a “miniature golf chic” aesthetic and “Big Sims Roller Coaster Tycoon energy” (Scott Lynch for Gothamist).

PREVIOUSLY ON PINCH OF DIRT: What four mayoral candidates (only one with a slight chance of winning) have to say about NYC nature and green spaces.

NEXT WEEK ON PINCH OF DIRT: I’m on vacation next week! Looking forward to: very cold swims, very slow jogs, reading in hammocks, watercolor painting, jigsaw puzzles, THE WORKS. Paid subscribers will still receive an itinerary on the first of June (this one may or may not include GHOST TOWNS). If you’re interested in receiving (and requesting!) outdoorsy or nature-based itineraries, become a paid subscriber today.