The Sandpoint Eater

Harvesting helpers

By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader columnist

Why do weeds grow like, well, weeds and vegetable seedlings grow like premature, orphaned rescue babies? I had no idea these minuscule little green stems would be more labor-intensive than a three-legged, twice-daily insulin-dependent cat.

I have learned more than a few things about seedlings. Just like cows, they love to die (a well-known rancher fact). Take your choice: you can kill them by underwatering, overwatering, (some even succumb to overwatching), transplanting and thinning. I’m not sure why it’s recommended to drop two to three seeds in each little Jiffy pot and when they finally start to grow, you’re supposed to pluck the little runts right out of the pot. I tried transplanting them with little success, but I sure feel bad when I have to abandon them. I’ve also lost the rooming list of who’s bedded where, and I now have 72 Jiffy pots surprises, which hopefully will be identifiable when the occupants grow a few more leaves.

I feel like everyone thinks they’re an expert in gardening, and I’m learning that there are more old wives’ tales associated with propagating plants than there are even with childbirth. A few to note: take them outside to “harden” them, leave them inside but exposed to fans, you must have grow lights, you’ll need a humidifier, a mister, don’t forget to fertilizer. Oh my!

Every single time I try to take them out for a bit of sunshine, it’s like I have summoned Father Wind to join us. Even the lightest of breeze causes them to sway, though I am not totally convinced they aren’t shivering. Our outdoor “hardening” adventures tend to be short-lived (measured by the time it takes to polish off a cold beer).

I’m looking forward to getting these little guys in the ground next month. I’ve also ordered (too) many packets of seeds to plant post-frost. Oodles of colorful radishes, beets and carrots for my “other” little guys, a.k.a. the city grandchildren, who are moving west this summer. While daughter Casey and SIL John make the long, hauling everything-they-own road trip from Chicago to Spokane, I’ll be here, keeping a pair of never-been-away-from-the-parents’ toddlers busy (3-year-old Sam and 1-year-old Runa).

I have visions of sweet little Sammy and Runa, armed with pint-sized watering cans and little wicker baskets, tottering barefoot in the grass, plucking fresh, crisp vegetables from our delightful little garden (in between the inconsolable, we-have-been-abandoned sobs).

Fortunately, their cousin Miley is coming to give me a hand (my 13-year-old baking protégé from Montana), and the Moscow cousin cavalry will be on high alert, ready to advance north at the first sign of trouble (or troubled little hearts). It’s not the first time I’ve provided a temporary home for my in-transit children’s children, and I have outdone myself gathering toddler goods to make them feel at home. It’s a privilege to have them entrusted to my care, and so far, I have returned them (mostly) unscathed. 

Even children raised in a vegetarian household cannot live by vegetables alone, so besides gardening, I have lots of big plans for the littles while they spend some of their summertime in Sandpoint. You’ll catch us wiggling our toes in the lake, dashing through the squirt fountains at Down Town Square, U-picking (and eating as we go) blueberries at Shingle Mill and strawberries at Hickey Farms. We’ll spend some time crafting a keepsake (for the parents) at Creations, licking on kid-sized cones from the cute window seat at Panhandle Cone and Coffee, and hopefully taking our turns as Captain of the Shawnodese. Have I forgotten anything we shouldn’t miss?

Depending on the success of my garden, you might also find us (frequently) foraging at the Saturday Farmers Market. I can barely wait for summer, and Sammy and Runa and the early vegetables that make this vegetarian pasta dish so darn tasty. For now, I’ve had to settle for store-bought peas.


Pasta with spring asparagus and peas — Serves 6-8 as a nice lunch, along with French bread

This pasta dish tastes like spring — fresh asparagus, green onions and young peas are the star ingredients. The sauce is light and doesn’t overpower the vegetables. Don’t overcook the pasta — or the vegetables. I like to use small pasta shapes (like bowties), so along with the small-sized vegetables, it’s easy for little fingers to pick up and eat.



• 2 tbs butter

• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

• 3/4 cup fresh (or frozen) petite peas

• 1/4 scant cup fresh spring onions (discard green ends) 

• 1/2 pound asparagus, ends snapped, tips snapped, and middle chopped the same size as the green onions

• 1 tsp sea salt flakes 

• 1/2 tsp coarse black pepper 

• 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano Parmesan cheese (save a little for the top of the pasta bowl)

• 1 cup whole fat Greek yogurt  (I recommend Fage)

• 3 tbs fresh minced parsley 



Add 2 tbs oil to a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 

Dice the onions and asparagus, leaving the asparagus tips whole.

Drop pasta into boiling water and cook, according to directions, until al dente. 

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic and peas and cook 1 minute.* Continue stirring, add asparagus and onion, cook another 2-3 minutes only. Season with salt and pepper; set aside

Drain pasta — don’t rinse (retain a cup of water) and immediately toss pasta with vegetables, Parmesan, Greek yogurt and parsley. Add up to a cup of pasta water if creamier pasta is desired.

Garnish with a shaved asparagus stock and parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper as needed. 

*If using frozen peas, cook with the garlic; if fresh peas add them with the asparagus and onions.

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