Discover one of springtime's most treasured but lesser-known crops before the season's over.

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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?)

Because lacy, delicate pea shoots grow up to be peas, you have a short window of opportunity to feast on them in the springtime. Perhaps that element of "get them while you can" adds to their appeal? Read on to learn all about pea shoots and how to eat them.

fresh pea shoots and pea pods
Credit: Meredith

All about pea shoots

What are pea shoots?

Pea shoots are the young leaves, stems, and delicate tendrils of any pea plants, including snow peas, sugar snap peas, and English peas.

Are pea shoots good for you?

As you'd expect with green vegetables, pea shoots are 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.

Where can I find pea shoots?

If you're not growing your own pea shoots, look for them 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.

Can I grow my own pea shoots?

Yes! In fact, they're very easy to grow in a garden or container. Plant seeds in the ground mid to late winter, or plant seedlings from late winter to early spring. Because they are a climbing vine, you'll want to provide something for them to attach to and climb upon.

How do I store fresh pea shoots?

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.

How do I eat pea shoots?

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.

salad of pea shoots, pears, and gorgonzola cheese
Credit: 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.

Try these recipes using pea shoots: