Add new flavours to your plate

New and unusual dishes can create variety on the dinner table, even when the plants in our gardens remain the same year after year.

Pea shoots, squash blossoms and garlic scapes are among the earliest garden pickings. Tender pea greens can be plucked for salads, garnishes and soups and pea blossoms make attractive garnishes.

Pick while they are only a few inches high or use the tender tips of a more mature plant.

The curled garlic scape is often discarded. Instead, chop them into stir fries, mince them into a pesto or add them to a salad. They are mildly flavoured with a hint of garlic.

When harvesting squash blossoms, pick the showy male blossoms. Both male and female are on the same stem but the female blossoms are usually closer to the centre of the plant. The female blossom will have the swelling of the embryonic fruit at its base.

Squash Blossom Appetizer

  • 8 squash blossoms, stems removed
  • 1/2 c. cream cheese 125 mL
  • 2 tbsp. chopped chives 30 mL
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsp. cream 30 mL
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. milk 60 mL
  • 1 c. pastry flour 250 mL
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • canola oil

Mix egg with milk and flour. Set aside. Puree the cream cheese with chives, garlic and cream. Set aside.
Use a small pot and fill with about one inch (5 mL) of oil. Heat to 350 F (180 C).Stuff the squash blossoms with one to two teaspoons (5-10 mL) of cream cheese mixture.

Twist blossom end to close so filling won’t spill out in the hot oil. When all are stuffed, roll each one in the flour and milk mixture. Drop carefully into hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pot. Turn once. Fry until golden and remove to a paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately. Garnish with sea salt and fresh herbs.

Pickled Radishes

  • 1 c. radishes, finely sliced 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. white wine vinegar 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. water 125 mL
  • 1 tbsp. maple sugar 15 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2.5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes 2.5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. whole mustard seeds 2.5 mL

Slice off the tops and bottoms of the radishes, then use a sharp chef’s knife or mandoline to slice the radishes into very thin rounds. Pack the rounds into a 250 mL (8 ounce) canning jar. Top with red pepper flakes and mustard seeds.
In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, maple sugar and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then pour the mixture over the radishes.
Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Let the pickles sit overnight in the refrigerator before using. They will keep well in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Chilled Pea Soup

  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter 45 mL
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 c. low sodium vegetable stock, divided 1 L
  • 6 c. shelled fresh peas or frozen peas, thawed 1.5 L
  • 1/4 c. fresh flat leaf parsley 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. fresh mint leaves 60 mL
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream 60 mL
  • fresh pea shoots and blossoms for garnishing

Melt the butter in a heavy pot. Add onion and cook until softened but not browned. Add two cups (500 mL) stock and bring to a boil. Add peas and simmer until tender.
Remove the pot from heat and add parsley, mint and remaining two cups of stock. Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Thin with water if it is too thick. Serve soup chilled and garnish with pea shoots and blossoms.

Cold Noodle Salad with Pea Shoots

Use your favourite Asian noodle. Lightly blanched fresh asparagus and green beans are good additions.

  • 1 lb. dried Asian noodles 500 g
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dark sesame oil 7 mL
  • 1/3 c. rice vinegar 75 mL
  • 1/3 c. soy sauce 75 mL
  • juice from one lime
  • juice from one lemon
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar 30 mL
  • 1/2 c. garlic scapes, finely chopped 125 mL
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste 10 mL
  • 1 c. finely grated carrot 250 mL
  • 2 c. pea shoots 500 mL

Cook noodles according to directions. Drain and rinse with cold water until chilled. Set aside. Add sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, lime and lemon juice, brown sugar, garlic scapes and red pepper flakes to an eight ounce (250 ml) jar. Shake to mix.
Toss the noodles with the carrots and two-thirds of the dressing. Arrange on a plate.
Toss pea shoots with the remainder of the dressing and arrange on top of the noodles. Serve cold.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at Contact:

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