Well… I officially put the snow shovel away. I know I’m pushing my luck here, especially living in northern Wisconsin, but the shovel retirement means I can officially break out my favorite gardening shoes. And I’ve been anticipating that for weeks.
I bought these little clogs called Crocs several years ago, with the intention of wearing them solely when working in the garden. I never thought I would ever wear them anywhere else, but their comfort and practicality have me unthinkingly wearing them to do neighborhood errands and on other little jaunts. I must say I’ve gotten quite a few comments on these shoes. Most people try to be nice.
And then one day the neighbor kid came over, spotted what he called my “funny shoes” and asked if I had any “jibbitz.” I told him I didn’t even know what a jibbitz was, and in short order he produced one and proudly presented it to me. Come to find out they are little plastic charms that attach to the holes in these shoes. In the last few years I’ve collected a handful, and now whenever a member of the younger set sees them, a trading war goes on.
I never really put much thought into wearing special clothes to garden in. But looking back, practically all my gardening mentors had specific attire they wore when they hit the dirt. My grandmother used to wear a smock with big pockets to carry tools and various gardening necessities. A favorite aunt had a little pair of flowery gloves she used to wear. And my mom had a special pair of pants she always wore. In fact, among my siblings and I there was an unwritten rule that when Mom had her gardening pants on, we would make a point of being as inconspicuous as possible; mainly because if you were not, she put you to work.
So I guess it’s not too far off base that I would have a special pair of shoes that are garden friendly. And I can’t tell you how happy I was to once again slip them on, in anticipation of another garden season. I’m feeling pretty confident, even with a little snow in the forecast, that I can probably get away with planting potatoes and some cold hardy veggies like peas and radishes in the days ahead. In fact, just the other day I had a hankering for one of my favorite dishes-fresh peas and red potatoes in cream sauce. This dish was always a favorite of my dad’s, too, and I can recall many times the two of us digging up a little hill of potatoes and shucking the peas for it. It was always in early spring, and we considered it the official first fresh garden dish of the season.
And I’m sure my jibbitz collection will also grow this year. The neighbor kid is just waiting to see me working in my garden again, knowing full well I’ll be wearing my “funny shoes” and the jibbitz trading wars can begin. I can’t wait.
Spring Potatoes and Peas in Sauce
2 lbs. red potatos, about the size of a golf ball
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
21/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 cups peas
Salt and pepper to taste
Clean potatoes and then boil in water until just tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and cool. Cut potatoes in half. Melt butter in sauce pan over low heat and add flour. Whisk until mixture bubbles and thickens, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to simmer, whisking often (sauce will be thick). Simmer until very thick, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Mix in cream and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in potatoes and then peas. Cook over medium-low heat until vegetables are heated through, stirring often, about 8 minutes.
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. corn oil
1 tsp. caraway seed
2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pinch sugar
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
15 -20 large radishes, trimmed and sliced thin (or shaved)
In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, caraway, oregano, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss radishes with vinegar-oil mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
Associate editor Mary Ann Doyle is available at email@example.com.