I made this pea shoot salad last night which included all garden pickings – pea shoots plus baby carrots, baby beets, cilantro, red onion and several varieties of cherry tomatoes. The first time I knowingly ate pea shoots was this past summer. We were on a road trip to the GWA (Garden Writers Association) conference and stopped for lunch in South Bend, IN. We found a great little Chinese restaurant (J.W. Chens) just off the freeway right next to Notre Dame University. We had a most delicious lunch that included a side of lightly sautéed pea shoots. I’m guessing the light seasoning may have been sesame oil and garlic.
After our pea shoot experience we started reading up on them. I figured that you had to grow them specifically for that purpose, and you can, but that’s not necessary. You can actually harvest the top tender 4-6 inches of your established pea plants to use for cooking or salads and the plants will continue to grow and produce pods. That was confirmed when the local deer herd did some pruning for us this year and the plants and the peas came back with a vengeance.
In fact, we had so many peas this year I couldn’t keep up with them. We let a lot of them dry on the vine to use for pea soup. Even when the vines and pods dry up the plants continue to produce new growth at the top. When I harvested the dry pods and pulled up the old vines I didn’t realize that I could have been snipping off the green tops for a stir fry.
This brings me back to our pea shoot salad of last night. When you let peas or beans dry on the vine, a few of them invariably break open and fall to the ground. Some of the fallen peas this year sprouted and grew as volunteers. Noel mentioned yesterday that I had some harvesting to do and I wondered what I had missed – pea shoots. There were over a dozen plants already 10-12 “ long and trailing on the ground so I just pinched off about 6” of the tender tips and left the rest growing. If the weather holds we may just get another picking.