Monday, April 30, 2012

Pea Shoots!

Who knew the tips of pea vines (pea shoots) are not only edible, but very tasty?

I like the flavor of peas... but not so much the texture, so I don't grow peas. A vendor at the farmer's market last week had a basketful, and when I inquired what they were, she told me and offered a taste. A taste of just one sold me! They are slightly crunchy, and taste like fresh peas right off the vine but with a more delicate flavor! I got a big handful to add to fresh salads.

I should have asked what kind of pea plant they came from. The tendrils of any edible pea can be harvested for shoots, and apparently those from snow peas and sugar snaps make excellent shoots. NOTE: the shoots of ornamental flowering sweet peas are poisonous!

"The University of Washington calls pea shoots a "nutrient-dense" green and says that for 10 calories from 2 cups of pea shoots,  your RDA gets 35% of its vitamin C, 15% of its vitamin A, 132% of its vitamin K, and 10% of its folate.  So, 2 cups of pea shoots sounds like a lot, but I can assure you that if you decide to cook them you will get about 2 tablespoons of cooked (delicious!) greens." (Source)

Fresh pea shoots are also a good source of vitamin E, folate, thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin B6, with all the beneficial fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants of many leafy greens. Harvest the pea shoots when they are anywhere from 3" to 7" long. If you leave the lowest set of leaves on the plant (3-4" above the ground), you can get a succession of shoots.

If you usually grow peas and save seeds, you know pea seeds are easy to save but have poor germination rates if kept too long. Here's a great suggestion. Grub out a small area in the garden (even just one square foot will do) and plant it heavily with your old pea seeds. You'll have enough germinate to harvest pea shoots in 2-4 weeks. When there are no more growing to cut (or getting tough rather than tender), dig the spent plants into the ground where they will supply nutrients for other plants.

If you have a long planter box that will fit on a cool windowsill inside the house, you can grow pea shoots in winter! (Peas are a cool weather crop and may not do well in a very warm house.)

Pea shoots can be used in salads, stir-fries, appetizers... any way you might use fresh spinach. Here are a couple of recipes, and a search engine will turn up many more:

Pea Shoot, Radish and Apple Salad
Crostini with Pea Shoots and Strawberries

Kohlrabi Slivers and Pea Shoots with Sesame Dressing

Pea Shoot and Spinach Salad with Bacon and Shiitakes


  1. What a wonderful idea for an early crop. Peas could be planted and the shoots harvested long before the fair weather plants go in. It would make a lovely addition to the fiddle heads and dandelion leaves that I forage when the need for fresh greens sends me beyond the confines of my garden plots.
    Thank you Darius, I learned something new here.....again.

  2. Hi, Darius,

    Until recently I didn't know pea vines were edible. The birds peck mine relentlessly!


  3. Not only edible, but delicious! No wonder the birds peck at them.

  4. If you don't like the texture of regular shelling peas, you might want to try sugar snap peas. You eat them whole, pods and all, but they are thicker than snow peas and crispy in texture.

    We love eating the tender pea vines. I look forward to seeing these at the farmer's markets in the spring. So yummy!

    The leaves from the fava bean plant are also edible. They have a slightly nutty taste and are good both in salads and cooked.

    Pumpkin greens are also good. Tender leaves and stems from winter squash vines are a very popular vegetable in much of Asia, Africa and various part of the Med. The simplest recipe is to saute the prepared greens with olive oil, garlic and salt. I usually cook them by sauteing some hing (asafoetida) in some oil, then add the prepped greens, stir and cook for 5 minutes, then add dry ginger powder, tumeric, hot paprika and salt to taste. I hope you will try them this summer.

    Here are a few links to YouTube videos showing how to prepare pumpkin greens.

    1. Thanks, nice to have you stop by! I DO love sugar snaps, and thanks for the great tips on fava and pumpkin greens!!


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