Pea shoots

Short version:

Pea shoots are an easy to grow tasty and nutritious quick crop that doesn’t take up much space.  You can buy seeds especially for growing pea shoots or grow them from dried peas bought as groceries. You can also eat the shoots of your pea plants that you grow for pods or peas, but you can reduce the end harvest if you over do it. You can grow pea shoots indoors for a quick crop (you can begin frugal tasting around 3 weeks and proper harvesting in 4 weeks). Outdoors, in the spring, growth will be slower.

Pea shoots can be grown indoors at any time of year. They grow quickly and are tasty to boot.

You can buy proper pea shoots seeds, but dried peas sold in grocery stores are cheaper and may be more easily available in the current climes.

How to grow

Soak overnight in water. Tap water is fine. Then sprinkle onto the surface of well watered compost and cover with a cm of compost. They can be sown densely. If I were to sow pea seeds for growing pods, then I would space them more like 4 to 6cm apart. They don’t need this much space when just growing the shoots. In fact, it helps a little as I won’t be providing any support for these as they grow. Being densely packed they support each other as they grow.

You can grow them in old fruit boxes like this grape tray in photos below. It already has holes in the base for drainage. It’s a good way to reuse plastic waste. It can still be recycled when you’re done growing. A mushroom tray that’s a size bigger can be used as a drip tray. They do well in pots.

When grown indoors they take about a week to start poking through the surface when kept in the warm indoors. I grew half special pea shoot seeds and half marrowfat peas in this pot to compare. As you can see, there doesn’t appear to be any difference in how well they have sprouted.

If they don’t get enough light, they will grow spindly with little leaf production. If they are underwatered, they will be a bit tougher. As you get later into summer the shoots will get tougher and less tasty. If growing outside they may have succumbed to insects, or more likely, some powdery mildew which happens when there is not enough air circulation, which will happen if they are planted densely.

How to harvest

You can have a taste of the pea shoots when they’re about 20 cms tall, but if you can, wait till they’re about 30cm tall. When grown inside this will be in around 4 weeks. You take off the top half of the shoot, leaving some leaves. The shoots will then be able to branch from the leaf buds left behind. You’ll then be able to harvest again when these side shoots have grown. You can treat this as a cut and come again plant.

How to eat

They taste a bit like peas. Maybe a cross between peas and lettuce. They should be slightly sweet and succulent and can be eaten raw, fried or steamed.

What to do after

You can leave the peas to grow into plants and maybe try and get some pods out of it, but as the poor things have just spent a couple of months putting all its resources into growing shoots that keep disappearing and the pea season is coming to an end you probably won’t get much. Being planted densely doesn’t help. Also, the pea seeds that tend to be used for pea shoots are specially produced to grow into pea shoots. The pods may not be that tasty. The marrowfat pea seeds that I have used would probably grow into the same marrowfat peas, as peas tend to self-pollinate. It can’t be guaranteed though. The pea flowers may have cross pollinated with a different variety of pea if there was one nearby as it grew. I don’t like marrowfat peas anyway. I like growing sugar snaps and mangetout, where you eat the whole pod.

Anyway… that does mean that any pea plants you grow for producing pods, you can also steal a few pea shoots for eating. I do that a little sometimes, but if I grow a pea plant for the pods, I prefer to have it direct its energy into grow lots of lovely, wonderful, flavourful, sweet, tasty pods.

After you’re satisfied that you won’t get anything else out of the plant for food, if it hasn’t become diseased, compost what’s left, roots and all. Peas are legumes which have nitrogen fixing bacteria in nodes in their roots. When composted they will provide plenty of nitrogen rich material for the next thing.

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