In season: fresh peas

Fresh peas are one of the sweetest treats of spring. For weeks now, farmers have been bringing pea tendrils to local farmers market. These young shoots with their curly tendrils are delicious raw in a salad or cooked in a stir fry. They’re almost as good as the pea pods themselves. Almost, but not quite.

The peas themselves should be appearing soon. Our cold winter pushed back the harvest of many spring fruits and vegetables.

Peas are a cool season crop, happiest with cool mornings and not too warm days. Linda and Tony Scharko of Scharko Farm, near downtown Fairburn, planted three varieties of peas from mid-February to late March hoping for a harvest in May that would extend into June.

The Scharkos sell their produce at the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market on Thursday afternoons, the Saturday morning Peachtree City Farmers Market and through their community supported agriculture program with pick up on the farm, at the East Atlanta Village and Peachtree City markets and near Candler Park on Sundays.

Linda Scharko’s favorite peas are sugar snaps.

“We also grow shelling peas, since some folks prefer them. … And we’re growing snow peas this year, a variety with colorful purple and yellow pods. And we have 150 feet of those planted,” she said.

The Scharkos have been growing peas for years, but some farmers find they’re too much trouble. “The main challenge is the trellising and the time involved in harvesting the peas,” she said.

The Scharkos find it’s worth the time it takes to grow these peas when they talk to their customers. “Folks love them, especially raw. At the markets, they’re often eaten before our customers even leave the market site,” she said.

Peas, like corn, begin converting their sugar to starch as soon as their harvested. For the sweetest peas, buy them from a local grower and use them as quickly as you can. Be sure and refrigerate them if you’re not using your peas on the same day.

At local farmers markets

Opening this week:

10 a.m.-3 p.m.. Sunday, April 27. Clarkston Farmers Market, Clarkston.

Cooking demos:

9 a.m. Saturday, April 26. Chef Ian Winslade of Murphy's. Morningside Farmers Market, Atlanta.

10 a.m. Saturday, April 26. Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta.

For sale at local farmers markets

Vegetables and fruit: artichokes, arugula and arugula blossoms, Asian greens, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, collards and collard florets, escarole, fennel, frisee, green garlic, herbs, kale and kale florets, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, morels, mushrooms, mustard greens, Napa cabbage, pea tendrils, peas, radicchio, radishes, ramps, spinach, spring onions, strawberries, turnips

From local reports

Spring onion-Pea Tart

Hands on: 25 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Serves: 10

No fresh peas on hand? The recipe works just fine with thawed frozen peas.

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out pastry

7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

Pinch kosher salt

6 tablespoons ice water, or as needed

2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 bunch spring onions, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup)

3 eggs

1 cup half-and-half

1 cup shelled English peas

Salt and pepper

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, 7 tablespoons cubed butter and salt. Pulse only until butter is evenly distributed and coated with flour. Do not over process. Have ice water ready.

Pulse mixture quickly adding just enough ice water to form a cohesive, but not sticky, mass. Remove mixture from food processor and press mixture together, using heel of hand. Gently pat into a 12-by-8-inch rectangle and fold into thirds as for a business letter. Wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. May be made up to two days in advance.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

When ready to bake crust, roll dough out on lightly floured work surface into a 12-inch circle. Fit into a 10-inch pie pan. Trim the edge as desired. Use a fork to prick bottom crust in several places. Line crust with foil or waxed paper and fill with dried beans or rice. Bake crust 15 minutes or until partially set. Remove from oven, remove beans or rice, saving for another use. Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees.

While crust is baking, make filling. In a small skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Stir in spring onions and saute for eight minutes, stirring occasionally, until pieces are very soft. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and half-and-half. Stir in peas and season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle spring onions over bottom of pre-baked crust. Slowly pour egg mixture over onions. Bake 55 minutes or until center is set and top is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from a recipe in “Vegetable Love” by Barbara Kafka (Artisan, out of print, available online).

Per serving: 251 calories (percent of calories from fat, 53), 6 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 15 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 100 milligrams cholesterol, 47 milligrams sodium.