By Vanessa Greaves

Discover one of springtime's lesser-known crops before the season's done.

Photo by Vanessa Greaves

I confess I grew up hating peas. They had absolutely nothing going for them. Their taste, texture, and smell all added up to a vegetable that ranked high on the yuck scale, second only to lima beans.

But pea shoots? I'll eat them any way I can get them. In fact, it's hard to believe something so sweet and delicious can grow up to be a pea. (Pea-lovers, we can agree to disagree, right?)

All About Pea Shoots

What Are They?
The young leaves, stems, and delicate tendrils of any pea plants including snow peas, sugar snap peas, and English peas.

Are They Good For You?
As you'd expect with green vegetables, they're packed with vitamins A and C, plus folic acid and antioxidants. They rank low in fat, calories, and carbohydrates, so you can eat 'em up like there's no tomorrow.

Okay, So Where Can I Find Them?
Pea shoots show up at farmers' markets in springtime. If you have access to an Asian market, look for them there, too. They're very fragile and don't last long, so plan to eat them within a day or two of buying them.

How Do I Store Them?
Store them in the vegetable drawer of your fridge just as you would with tender baby greens. Rinse them in cold water and pat dry before eating or cooking.

Can I Grow My Own Pea Shoots?
Yes! In fact, they're very easy to grow in a garden or container. Vertical Veg takes you through it step by step.

How Do I Eat Them?
Very young shoots are best eaten raw in salads, where they add a sweet, subtly grassy flavor and crisp texture. Use larger shoots in stir-frys or any dish where you'd use lightly cooked spinach or Swiss chard.

You might also find them in a salad, like I did recently at Luc in Seattle's Madison Valley.

Photo by Vanessa Greaves

The pea shoots in the salad I ordered came in a tender tangle of microgreens, pale celery leaves from the innermost stalks, a mixed dice of apples, pears, and white strawberries, crumbled blue cheese, and a lightly creamy vinaigrette. Heaven on a salad plate, people. I could have ordered another one for dessert.

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