ashley englishsmall measures

small measures with ashley: pea trellis & pea frittata

by Ashley

A number of stories involving peas floated around my house growing up. There’s the tale about my older brother, who, as a toddler, squirreled away a storehouse of the tiny green orbs in his cheek during a feeding, only to expel them, cannonball-style, at my parents later. There’s also the story my mom would tell of a prom date that despised peas. During their posh pre-prom dinner, he secretly hid one pea at a time under his dinner plate, only to have his deed made public when a waiter removed his dish, revealing the semi-circle of peas beneath it.

As for me, I’ve never met a pea I didn’t like. Snuggled alongside butter, pureed with fresh herbs into a savory dip, baked into a samosa or swimming in a chicken pot pie, wherever peas are involved, I’m a fan. And so, today’s Small Measures with Ashley pays tribute to the verdant legume, with ideas for creating your own pea trellis and a recipe for a delectable Pea & Spring Herbs Frittata. — Ashley

CLICK HERE for the rest of the post and a delicious recipe for a pea frittata after the jump!

If you’ve ever wanted to pick fresh peas straight out of your own yard, now is the time. Early spring to June is prime pea season. Peas require little in terms of horizontal space. As climbing, vining plants, they’re much more interested in moving on up vertically. Hubs and I recently created this pea planter and trellis. Here’s what was involved:

Planter: We used 2″ x 12″ x 8′ wood planks for the front and back of the planter. On the sides, you can use whatever depth you desire; we opted to use 2″ x 12″ x 10″ planks. The corners are held together with metal corner braces. To weatherize the planter, we painted it with some old low-VOC paint we had on hand. Finally, we filled the frame with a mixture of organic potting soil and mulch on top (we used Nature’s Helper).

Trellis: For the trellis itself, we secured livestock fencing (each opening on the fence is 2″ x 4″) to 65 ft. heavy-duty steel fence T-posts. Along the top of the livestock fencing, we strung some chicken wire. The livestock fencing and chicken wire were attached to each other, as well as to the T-posts, using cable ties (we keep loads of these on hand and find them SO handy in the garden). Their combined height is just over 5 ft., which I’ve found to be the average suggested height for pea trellises. Note that we had both types of fencing on hand, so we appropriated them for this project. If you’d prefer to exclusively use one or the other (livestock fencing or chicken wire) for the entire height of your trellis, doing so would likely work equally well. Owing to a rather robust rabbit (say THAT 10 times fast!) population in our area, we wrapped the perimeter of the planter in chicken wire, which may or may not be necessary, given your location.

Spacing: We planted our pea starts 1″ apart. They can be packed in pretty tight, so we were able to get 28 plants in the planter. We then threaded the shoots up through openings in the trellis, to aid them in the process of growing into and latching onto the fencing for their vertical climb.

For some more ideas for pea trellises, check out Willi Galloway’s fantastic blog post over at Diggin’ Food. As the West Coast editor of Organic Gardening magazine, Willi knows a thing or two about how to get things growing right.

So, what to do with all those peas? Put ’em in a frittata, that’s what I say! A delicious dish that highlights the use of spring herbs in peas can be found in Amy Pennington’s new book Apartment Gardening (I’m giving away a copy here). Her recipe for Warm Peas & Lemon Balm is easy (peasy!) to make and exquisite nestled into a springtime frittata.

Warm Peas & Lemon Balm (from Apartment Gardening, Sasquatch Books, 2011)
Serves 2 to 4

Shelling peas are one of those vegetables that are just perfect when homegrown. Frozen peas do not compare to fresh peas that are sweet and crispy, even when cooked briefly in a water bath as called for here. It is a bit of a labor-intensive process to first blanch and then shock the peas in an ice-water bath, but it’s worth it for the crisp-tender texture this extra step produces. Peas also pair beautifully with mint. You can easily substitute mint for the lemon balm in this recipe, or use equal amounts of both herbs.


  • 1 pound shelling peas
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon balm leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is boiling, shell the peas. Set up a water bath, filling a large bowl with cold water and ice. Set aside. When the peas have been hulled, drop them into the boiling water and cook until bright green and floating, 2 t0 3 minutes. Drain and immediately drop them into the ice-water bath, halting the cooking process. Give them a stir to make sure they are cool, then drain and set aside.

2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the lemon balm and stir until the leaves make a popping sound, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the peas and stir to combine. When the peas are just heated through, about 1 minute, remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Pea & Spring Herb Frittata


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup Amy’s Warm Peas & Lemon Balm
  • 1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • a few mint leaves, julienned


1. Heat butter and olive oil over low heat in an 8″ saucepan. Swirl the mixture around once the butter is melted, coating 2″ up the sides.

2. Beat the eggs with the milk and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the egg mixture to the pan.

3. Cook 5 minutes, then sprinkle peas evenly over the top of the mixture.

4. Cook for a few more minutes, then sprinkle grated cheese evenly over top.

5. Turn on broiler in oven.

6. Transfer saucepan to oven. Cook about 5 minutes or until the eggs are golden brown on top and fully set.

7. Remove from oven. Cool 5 minutes.

8. Invert the frittata onto a plate, and then invert it back right-side up onto another plate.

9. Garnish with the mint and cut with a pizza wheel.

Peas in the garden. Peas in the pot. Peas in season are something to celebrate. What about you? Got any go-to pea recipes that tantalize the taste buds and enliven the soul? I’d love to hear about them!

Suggested For You


  • I just planted some peas. this recipe makes me wish that these peas were ready.
    i also added a link to your post about the fabric plant tags on my blog. i am obsessed with sewing and gardening and i love the combo of the two.

  • Great to see someone else get as geeked out about peas as I am. I printed Amy’s recipes for Warm Peas & Lemon Balm yesterday, but I never would have thought to add them to a frittata! I think I will try your pea box and trellis idea next year. Thanks for the post!

  • Just planted my peas last weekend, so this post comes in handy in planning for the trellising. Can’t wait to make that frittata with my own peas!

  • I saw the cutest thing today in a sort of neighbours garden (more up the street!) – while their peas are small, they put little cute sticks in to help support their plants until they are big enough to be ‘trellised’. It looked adorable! Gotta get me some twigs!

  • We just planted snow peas, snap peas and shelling peas. So exciting!
    Pea Risotto is also the best ever or just peas sauteed with mint and butter! Yum!

  • Peas are my favorite veg, both to eat and to look at. I love the curly little tendrils – so cute! Is there any reason I couldn’t grow them indoors? I’ve got a sunny spot with lots of southern light.

  • I absolutely love peas, and I also love this project! I do have a question: I’m planning out my first container garden for my apartment balcony, and I’m wanting to re-create this planter to live on my balcony. I’m wondering how deep this might need to be if there is to be a bottom to it? (How deep do peas grow?) I’m also thinking that I will need to lift up the planter using cinderblocks or something so that the wood isn’t sitting directly on the ground (to prevent rot)? Any advice is appreciated! Happy growing! :)

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.