Peas are a quick and easy crop, but you have to plant a lot of peas to ensure a good size pea harvest once they’re shelled. Since peas fade in warm weather, timing is also an issue in getting a good crop of peas. One way to extend your pea growing season is to harvest and eat some of the young pea shoots and tendrils.
All parts of the pea plant are edible. As the pea leaves and stems mature, they tend to get tough and stringy. But when they are young, the pea shoots are both tender, but crisp and tasty. The same goes for those curling, clinging tendrils the pea plants use to hold on to supports. You’ve probably seen them on plates in Asian restaurants and trendy establishments. Pea shoots and tendrils may look exotic or sophisticated, but even gardeners who can’t grow peas to maturity can grow pea shoots and tendrils.
Growing Pea Shoots and TendrilsThere’s no trick to growing pea shoots and tendrils. Just seed a few additional pea plants, to have some to harvest early. Plant when you would normally plant peas in your area, as soon as the ground is workable and has had a chance to dry out a bit after winter. Since the plants you sow for shoots and tendrils won’t need as long a growing period, you can reseed up to about 1 month before the warm weather sets in. You can even grow pea shoots indoors, in the winter.
Harvesting Pea Shoots and TendrilsOnce your pea plants are about 6 - 8 inches tall, you can snip off the top growth including one set of leaves. This will be your first, small harvest, but cutting off the growing tip will encourage the plants to branch out and continue growing.
After that, you can continue harvesting the top 2 - 6 inches of the pea plants every 3 - 4 weeks. You can harvest shoots, leaves and tendrils as well as any flowers or buds that may have formed. Eventually you’ll notice the shoots aren’t as tender as they were early in the season and the flavor will start to turn bitter. Stop harvesting at that point. If the weather stays cool, you may get pea pods forming on these plants. Chances are good the pea season will be over before that happens.
I have read that leaving the plants to grow and trimming them back to about 4 inches in late July will result in a new harvest of pea shoots and tendrils in the fall, but I’ve never had success with that. I have always replanted from seed in mid-August.
Pea Varieties Good for Shoots and TendrilsAny type of pea will suffice, but sugar pod peas are the easiest types to grow for shoots and tendrils, since they tend to shoot up faster and stay light and crisp. 'Oregon Sugar Pod' seed is readily available and great for shoots and tendrils.
Using Pea Shoots & Tendrils in CookingPea shoots and tendrils are tender enough to serve with no or minimal cooking. They are often tossed into salads or on top of soups. You can always add a few curls as an edible garnish. Pea shoots and tendrils are also a tangy addition to stir-fired dishes or simply steamed or sautéed as a side dish.
A Couple of Recipes to Tempt You: