Peas are a favorite spring vegetable, and the shoots are especially sweet and crunchy.Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
Pea shoots are an easy-to-grow way to get fresh greens early in the season.Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
Peas are one of the favorite vegetables of early spring, but who wants to wait for the pods to fill out? Pea shoots offer a fresh alternative that can be ready to harvest in just a few weeks.
The shoots are the thin tendrils plus the uppermost leaves that grow on pea plants, such as English peas or Snow peas. These bright green tendrils have a sweet, fresh taste and a satisfying crunch that can chase the winter blues right away.
Sometimes you can find these delicate shoots at farmer’s markets, but they’re easy to grow in the vegetable garden or a container on the patio. Another, easier alternative, is to grow them indoors in trays like micro greens.
You can use a soilless mix or organic compost to grow the pea shoots. Add the soil to a container with drainage holes and water. Then sprinkle the pea seeds close together over the top of the soil. Use a spray bottle to keep seeds and soil moist. Seeds will sprout in a few days and a light source will help them grow quickly. In a few weeks the sprouts will be ready to harvest with a clip of the scissors.
If you’d rather plant and grow outside, plant pea seeds while spring temperatures are still cool, but soil has warmed to about 50-60 degrees and is moist, but not soggy. The timing should be about two to four weeks before the date of the average last spring frost for your area.
Peas are a hardy vegetable; they can survive a bit of frost and grow in temperatures as cool as 40 degrees.
Choose a full-sun to part-sun area in the garden, on a deck or patio and amend the soil with compost. Dig deeply and loosen the soil to make it easier for the peas to germinate and start growing.
To speed germination, soak pea seeds in water overnight. Plant seeds fairly close together, about ½ inch deep and cover with a thin layer of compost. Use a mister or spray bottle to keep peas and soil moist while they start to grow. Then water peas as needed, so the soil stays moist.
When shoots are about 3-4 inches tall, use scissors to clip pea shoots above the bottom leaves (some may regrow).
Rinse shoots in cold water, dry and use right away to top green salads, blend into a smoothie or use as a garnish for other vegetable, meat, fish or egg dishes. They can also be stirred into hot dishes, like soups and stir frys, or sautéed in a little olive oil and seasoned to enjoy as a side dish.
Store shoots for 2-3 days in a covered container in the fridge.
When the plants have finished growing, dig up the roots for the compost pile and replant more peas or another favorite spring vegetable.
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