My kids chant this in unison at the table through missing-front-teeth, first grade smiles. For all the benefits of cover crops, I hadn’t expected “breakfast ingredient” among them.
Under previous ownership, this farm suffered an endless rotation of corn-soybeans for decades. The soil was compacted, eroded, and so lifeless that the earthworms had long abandoned it for the suburbs. I read several cover crop guides over the winter, looking for the best combinations that would build soil, “fix” nitrogen by making it available to other plants, break up compaction, hold soil moisture, suppress weeds, and provide forage for the pigs. In the spring, I broadcast medium red clover, oats, and perennial ryegrass over most of the acreage and the remaining four acres in oats and forage peas. Unlike clover and ryegrass, which will overwinter and come back next spring, forage peas and oats only last one season. However, I’d read that forage peas establish quickly and provide excellent grazing for pigs at all stages of the peas’ growth cycle, so I wanted to try them.
Only a couple weeks after planting in late April, the peas and oats grew into a lush green mat. By June, they were knee high. Walking through the forage pea patches that hadn’t been grazed yet, my wife started picking and nibbling on the tender shoots at the ends of the plants. Our daughter, Hazel, immediately followed suit, but Hazel has been known to eat raw potatoes right out of the ground. When our veggie-skeptical son, Karsten, tried one and grabbed more, I snapped off a few dew-covered leaves for myself, surprised by their mild sweetness.
“These would be good in omelets,” Sarah said.
“Can we have forage peas in omelets tomorrow?” Hazel begged.
“If you pick them, I’m sure your dad will put them in your omelet,” Sarah replied.
When I started making breakfast the next morning, the kids pulled on their boots and dashed outside. They hadn’t rushed out the door that quickly since the barn cat had kittens. They started the forage-peas-with-melted-cheese chant as soon as they returned with their morning haul.
Forage pea shoots do taste great in omelets—especially with fresh tomato slices.
After that morning in late June, I made omelets with forage peas a few times a week until the pigs grazed the last part of the patch. Cover crops have been good for the soil and good for the pigs. Bonus: they are good for breakfast too.
Former Marine Infantry Officer. Iraq Vet. Interested in Regenerative Agriculture at any scale.
Odyssey Farm, LLC.
The Odyssey Farm Journal
Odyssey Farm, LLC
Dane County 2022 Climate Champion
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