New beginnings and warmer days ahead.
This year, Spring Equinox is on Sunday March 20 and now, more than ever, this day feels so very worthy of recognition and celebration.
Equinox means equal day and equal night. It literally translates as ‘equi’ (equal) and ‘nox’ (night). It’s a moment where the Earth’s equator on its axis passes the same plane of the sun’s equator, making the day and night equal in length. This happens twice in each year. More importantly, it symbolises the beginning of spring and new beginnings. Warmer and longer days are ahead, green shoots are showing, and an awakening is happening.
As new life springs forth and the sun warms us, we can set intentions for the year ahead. Plan a herb or small veg patch if you have not previously. Buy a new journal and make lists of things you’d like to do this year – big and small. Write letters to friends, re-awaken friendships and reach out. Be inspired. Breathe in the new, spring air.
With all this new life and some new dreams in mind, here are a few of our favourite things to plant, sow and eat during these fertile and energy-boosting spring days.
Sow some seeds - why not peas!
“If you don't like peas, it is probably because you have not had them fresh. It is the difference between reading a great book and reading the summary on the back.”
― Lemony Snicket, ‘Shouldn't You Be in School?’
Planting pea tips
Peas are the perfect seed to sow with Spring Equinox in mind as they are little powerhouses. They develop from humble seeds to winding shoots and tendrils to deep green pods that swell, full of goodness. Green represents prosperity and the swollen pods of peas are often used as a symbol of fertility. Choose organic or heirloom varieties if you can.
There are many ways that you can grow peas, some gardeners recommend soaking your pea seeds before planting, others recommend well fertilised soil but the truth is you can pop peas in the ground or in pots, and they germinate quickly and easily. Your only real struggle will be to stop everything else trying to eat them before you! Birds in particular love pea shoots and flowers, and mice will feast on seeds if given the chance.
Plant in a good pot of compost or a veg bed that has been weeded with topsoil that is loose enough for you to create two drills, around an 2.5 to 5cm deep. Sow peas around 10cm apart, cover the seeds and water well. Remember to give the peas something to climb up, pruned twigs from prickly bushes will help deter birds a little but you may also need to net your peas.
They like a sunny spot that is a little sheltered from the wind and rain, and, if your timing is right, your shoots will appear after the last frosts. Cut them as little pea shoots if you enjoy micro greens or let them grow and the blooms will turn to pods that fatten and sweeten. Then you can enjoy the therapeutic process of harvesting and podding your own fresh peas.
Peas are packed with a surprising number of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. They are also high in micro-nutrients, vitamins, fibre, protein and minerals. We recommend eating them raw and straight from pod before their natural sugars turn to starch and lose their sweet flavour.
Plant a perennial
Here are some of our favourites for flowery joy this summer.
Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ ~ a pretty perennial that bees and bugs love. Did you know that bees see in UV so blooms in shades of blues are the perfect for pollinators.
Achillea ‘Moonshine’~ understated but a perennial that should definitely not be overlooked. It’s related to the hero herb yarrow, which has many healing properties. Achillea is not only a drop of golden sunshine, it’s good for pollinators. It can be cut and dried, and holds its golden hue so looks stunning in dried arrangements in the autumn and winter.
Geum ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’ ~ just because geum are full of joy! They have brightly coloured blooms that will brighten borders and bring much-needed sunshine on grey days.
A taste of spring
Enjoy the process of preparing and gently cooking a delicious spring risotto with a divine flourish of mint and truffle oil.
Recipe from the Fernery.
Minted Pea and Asparagus Risotto
2 tbsp olive oil
300g bunch asparagus, stalks finely sliced, and tips reserved
1-1.25 litres fresh chicken or vegetable stock
350g risotto rice
200ml dry white wine
Bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Grated zest and juice 1 lemon
200g frozen peas
75g parmesan, grated
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
Bunch of spring onions
For the purée
200g frozen peas
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
Juice 1 lemon
Large handful fresh mint leaves
For the pea purée, put the frozen peas in a heatproof bowl and defrost by covering with boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and transfer to a blender or food processor and whizz with the spinach, rapeseed oil, lemon and parsley until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan and gently cook the chopped white part of the spring onions, celery and asparagus stalks until softened (about 10 minutes).
Meanwhile, put the stock in a pan and gently heat until hot but not boiling. Keep warm on a low heat.
Stir the rice into the vegetables to coat the grains in the oil, then cook for 1-2 minutes more. Pour in the wine, bring up to a fast simmer and cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Start adding a litre of stock a ladleful at a time, stirring often, only adding more once the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. (This should take around 20 minutes.)
Meanwhile, make a salsa. Chop the reserved green part of the spring onions and mix in a bowl with the mint, anchovies, 1 tbsp olive oil, lemon zest and juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the rice is still hard after it has absorbed a litre of stock, stir in a little more. As the rice is starting to become plump and tender, about 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time, stir in the asparagus tips, peas, and pea purée, then cook until the rice is tender.
Stir in the butter and parmesan, taste, season and serve with the mint salsa for drizzling over.
Can be finished with fresh pea shoots drizzled with truffle oil.