Grow your Own: Pea Shoots

If you're looking for a fast crop you can grow in early spring or late summer, why not try pea shoots? Pea shoots will provide you with your first crop in around fourteen days and you can expect at least 3 crops from each plant. They are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A and folic acid and dishes containing pea shoots are currently gracing the menus of all the top trendy restaurants.

Growing pea shoots

The best time to grow peas specifically for harvesting the shoots is in early spring or late summer since they will grow best in cooler temperatures.

Choose sugar snap varieties or mangetout and plant the seeds around 3cm deep and 6cm - 10cm apart.

When the shoots are around 20cm tall, snip off (and eat) the tips just below the top two sets of leaves. This will encourage the plant to produce side shoots.

Every three or four weeks, you can then harvest the top 10cm to 12cm or so until you get to a stage when the pea shoots begin to taste a little bitter. You should expect to get at least three harvests from one plant.

Pests and diseases

Because you are harvesting the shoots at such an early stage, pests and diseases are rarely a problem. However, slugs will find your lovely fresh, new growth very attractive so you may have to guard against them. The best way to do this is to spread a good layer of fine gravel in between the plants.

Pea shoots in the kitchen

Pea shoots have an intense pea flavour and can be used raw in salads along with other intensely-flavoured salad leaves such as rocket and watercress. In Japan and China, they are a highly-prized ingredient and can be used in stir-frys. When cooking with pea shoots, add them at the last minute and treat them as you would spinach.

Try them lightly tossed in butter, served with fish or added to new potatoes just before serving.

A quick search on the internet will reveal a variety of mouth-watering recipes using pea shoots.

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Growing pea shoots and pea shoots in tomato sandwich photos by sleepyneko; Sauteed pea shoots with halibut photo by Special*Dark; Pea shoot salad by Stu_Spivack all via Flickr.

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