Pea shoots

Pea shoots are an oriental delicacy, regularly grown in gardens across China, but rarely seen for sale here in the UK because they’re very expensive for their weight. Cheap and easy to grow, pea shoots are an ideal candidate for growing in a kitchen garden because you’ll be getting a lot of value for your money and your space – even if all you have is a windowsill or a small container garden.

All you will need is a growing medium (potting compost or vermiculite), a suitable container and some pea seeds. Suitable containers are shallow – you can use a standard seed tray, or reuse some of the plastic containers supermarket produce comes in. You can use any pea seeds (Alys used a packet of cheap dried peas from the supermarket) that you have handy – this is a great way of using up any leftover pea seeds.

If you’re in the market for fresh pea and bean seeds, then Victoriana Nursery Gardens have a range of reliable varieties.

You can sow peas for peas hoots at any time of year indoors, or from spring onwards outside (although you’ll have to be on the lookout for beasties such as slugs and snails that will graze away green seedlings and mice that may dig up seeds before they germinate).

Fill your container with a layer of compost or vermiculite a couple of centimetres deep. Add a layer of pea seeds on top – you don’t have to give them much space at all as they’re not going to grow big, so cram them in. Cover them with another centimetre of soil, water gently, and pop them somewhere where you can keep an eye on them. If you can cover them with a clear plastic lid (or put the container in a clear plastic bag) then that helps to keep the seeds moist while they’re germinating, but take it off once you can see signs of life.

Water your seedlings regularly so that they don’t wilt. Once they’re about 15 centimetres tall you’ll be able to see several pairs of leaves and they’ll start to grow thin climbing tendrils – this is the stage at which you harvest your pea shoots. Simply snip or nip out the top of the plants. [I have some photos showing exactly how to harvest pea shoots that you may find useful.]

You’ll get two or three harvests from the same container before they start being past their best. But if you sow another small container every time you start to harvest one then you can easily have a continuous supply. Once a container has finished cropping, simply add the remaining bits and pieces to the compost heap, wash it out and start again!

There’s no reason that you can’t harvest tender pea shoots from the tops of pea plants that are growing in the garden – except that if you overdo it you may affect the size of your pea crop. These ultra-fresh greens add a lovely mild pea flavour to salads or sandwiches, or you can lightly stir-fry them, or use them as a garnish for recipes such as my Cheesy peasy pasta bake.

This article is one of a series offering basic gardening advice and how to articles. Click through to the gardening basics page for more!