March 28, 2016

My mom's pea soup and the magic of seed saving...

When my family first moved to Nova Scotia from Québec 28 years ago, my mom had a hard time finding yellow dry peas to make her traditional soupe aux pois (Québec pea soup). It was at Salt Spring Seeds, all the way on the other side of the country, where she ended up finding the perfect yellow pea to grow in her garden for the beloved soupe aux pois.

She ordered a small packet from them and the humble handful grew enough peas for a nice pot of soup and for replanting an even larger amount the following spring. From then on, we always had a good supply of peas and she declared the Darlaine yellow pea to be the ideal soup pea. 

She delighted in growing the dry pea every bit as much as the tender green snap peas that she would eat like candy off the plant while listening to the birds in her garden. Because as any Québecois knows, soupe aux pois is a sacred thing: simple, filling, hearty. 

After my mom passed away, my stepdad continued growing out many of the peas and beans she had carefully grown and saved year after year. And I did the same with some of those varieties that I remember her praising: Ethiopian lentils, Salt Lake Beans, and especially the cherished Darlaine pea. Last year, I finally had a harvest large enough to make a hearty pot of soup, and it was an occasion worthy of capturing on video. A moment of celebration, a nod to my mom and the knowledge and treasures she has passed on. (I can always hear her giggling with delight and mischief when she was harvesting something that she was about to turn into a delicious dish). 

A couple weeks ago, I wrote to Dan Jason at Salt Spring Seeds and asked him for more information about the Darlaine pea. I was surprised when he said that after all these years, he remembered my mom's name very well from her seed orders, because he said that she had the most beautiful-sounding name. I found it moving that he remembered her even though he had never met her. If she had ordered her seeds from a larger seed company, that would have been unlikely to happen. 

I thanked Dan for bringing the Darlaine pea and so many other beautiful heirloom seeds into my mom's garden and into our lives, even years after she died. It has created a special sense of continuity and connection that repeats itself year after year, in each plant and pea pod and bowl of soup. 

You'll find my mom's recipe on my post over at PBS Food


  1. What a tender story. I'll hope over to look at your mom's recipe shortly, but first, thank you for this. I'll share on YayYay's Kitchen Facebook page and Twitter shortly. Wonderful images. Well staged!

  2. I am sure you felt your mothers arms around you as you wrote this, Aube,,,I can only imagine "the giggle" and sheer delight she would exude knowing you are not only continuing the traditions she introduced you to, but that you understand and share her thrill of growing, and of good food, and of sharing it with the ones you love... I am consistently edified reading your work - and as you make this soup, you will always remember your mom, and share stories of her with whomever you share this meal with. That is what I work so diligently to achieve in my home, with my own daughters.
    And, the soup? It looks absolutely delicious.

    1. Thank you for your beautiful words Valerie, so kind of you! :-) Hugs to you and your daughters from here xoxo

  3. Your tender story inspired me to purchase some Darlaine peas from Dan Jason at Salt Spring Seeds. They arrived in the mail a couple weeks ago and I'm now just waiting (eagerly, I'll add) for planting weather. I can already imagine making the soup, which looks like the perfect comfort food. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Hi Laura, it just warms my heart to hear that! I wish you happy gardening and a successful harvest! Keep me posted how it goes...

  4. My own pea soup recipe is very similar. However I often don't have time to soak the peas overnight. A quick alternative pit the peas in a pot with cold water (enough to cover them to about twice the depth of the peas, bring the peas to a boil and then turn off and let stand for one hour. I then drain and refill with 8-10 cups of water and start my recipe. I also find black forest ham is the best ham to use.