One of my summer's "bests" has been a weekly bike ride to the new farmers' market in our neighborhood. There are so many things to like about the ritual -- the anticipation of that first bite of a buttery fresh croissant from Patisserie 46, chitchatting with neighbors and sampling the colorful produce and products from local farmers.
Now in late September, spring radishes have made way for squash, a clue that the growing season is coming to an end.
But it doesn't have to, according to energetic Karla Pankow and Elizabeth Millard, owners of Bossy Acres farm (bossyacres.com) and regulars at our market. These organic farmers encourage us to bring "the land" into our homes this fall, and "keep farming" with kids by planting windowsill gardens of low-maintenance and fun-to-grow pea shoots.
We've already taken the challenge at our house, and we're enthused by the results of our edible garden. We add the nutrient-rich and tasty shoots to tuna or egg sandwiches and Asian stir-fries and use them as garnish for cups of soup. Thanks to Elizabeth's suggestion, I like to arrange a bed of shoots on a plate and set a fried egg on top.
HERE'S WHAT YOU'LL NEED FOR 6-BY-8-INCH GARDEN:
-- A scant 1/4 cup dry pea seeds, such as snow peas
-- 1 glass jar
-- 1 repurposed 6-inch-by-8-inch plastic deli clamshell container with holes in the bottom or similar container that fits your windowsill. Make holes for drainage
-- 1 drainage tray
-- Potting soil, preferably organic
-- Water spritzer
HERE'S WHAT TO DO:
1. Soak seeds in a jar filled with water for a day to help them germinate faster.
2. Let your kids scoop the potting soil into the container, filling it two-thirds full. Water until moist. Sprinkle the soaked peas evenly on the soil. Lightly cover with more soil. Spritz with water.
3. Place in a warm room. Cover container with a kitchen towel. Water occasionally to keep soil moist. Avoid overwatering to prevent mold.
4. Watch for sprouts to appear within two to three days. Remove cover. Place planter in a sunny window. The sprouts might look yellow at first, but they will turn green and grow quickly in the sunshine. The greenery eventually will fill the container, spill out and flourish. Water regularly.
5. Harvest pea shoots as needed when they are 4 to 6 inches long. To encourage new growth, clip shoots near the base of a stem above a leaf. Grow this lovely garden for another three weeks or so. When it is finished, discard soil and start a new crop.
Donna Erickson's award-winning series "Donna's Day" is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visitdonnasday.com and link to the new Donna's Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families."