Produce Profile: Grow Pea Shoots For Delicious Greens

You can grow pea shoots outside or in, during cold weather or warm. The glorious greens add a fresh crunch to almost any meal.

by Lisa Munniksma
PHOTO: honeyedG/Shutterstock

Pea shoots are, just as the name implies, the early shoots of pea plants.

If left to continue growing, these young plants would eventually establish deep root systems and, in a couple of months, produce pea pods.

Until the plants reach about 6 inches tall—which takes just two to four weeks—the shoots are tender and crisp. The best part is they taste just like peas in the form of green leafy veggies.

Grow Pea Shoots Indoors

If you’re growing pea plants for pea shoots’ sake, indoors or in a greenhouse is the easiest way.

You’ll find seeds specific to pea shoot production. These provide the most tender pea shoots, but you can harvest pea shoots from any pea seeds that you have on hand.

Start out by soaking the seeds—which are actually peas, you may already know—overnight to soften the seed coat and speed up germination.

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Drain the seeds, and pop one each into soil blocks or the cells of a seed tray, then cover with 1/2 inch of soil, water and wait.

Pea shoots take up such little room, you can even plant a handful directly into a container for a sunny windowsill, spaced 1/2 inch apart. They’ll germinate in two or three days and be ready to eat in two or so weeks.

Grow Them Outdoors

It’s possible to grow pea plants to harvest both shoots and peas.

You’ll want actual pea seeds—whether for snow peas, snap peas or English peas—if you’re planning to harvest peas after the shoot stage. In this case, you’re probably growing peas outdoors. Put them in the ground in early spring, when the soil is cool but not too wet. Pea plants will thrive until the weather gets too warm.

One more option for growing pea shoots is to let your winter pea cover crop do double duty. You can eat shoots from these plants, too!

How to Harvest Pea Shoots

Unlike growing for pea pods, there’s no need to trellis pea shoots, because they’ll grow to just 6 inches tall before you harvest.

When pea shoots are 3 to 6 inches, cut them with scissors just above the lowest set of leaves. Store the shoots in the fridge in a sealed bag or container, or add them directly to the meal you’re enjoying next.

Pea shoots are cut and come again, and you can get two or three cuttings before you’ve reached peak pea shoot.

When your pea shoot plants are spent, toss them to the chickens or put them—soil and all—into your compost bin.

How to Eat Pea Shoots

I love eating pea shoots every which way. I’m writing this in mid-winter, so having any bunch of fresh greens is exciting!

I recently folded my pea shoots into an omelet, wrapped them in a tortilla with tuna salad, and stirred them into both a curry and a pasta dish just before serving.

Stir fries and salads also benefit from some crunchy pea shoot action. In short, you can incorporate pea shoots into most dishes—raw, steamed or stir fried.

Apart from the obvious benefit of giving your dish some crunch and a pop of bright-green color, pea shoots are also nutritious.

They’re a good source of fiber, beta carotene and lutein, as you’d expect from any green leafy vegetable. Compared to other ready-to-eat green leafy veggies, they have even higher vitamins C, E and A; potassium; and phosphorous, according to a study published in Food Research International.

Pea shoots are like springtime year-round for your kitchen and your greenhouse. When you’re facing yet another cloudy winter horizon, a bright-green crop of pea shoots may be all you need to brighten your day as well as your next meal.

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