Shoots and Later

When pea plants are about as tall as a butter knife, you can harvest their shoots. Not only do you get to eat more of the plant, you may encourage them to produce more peas. Pinch off the tendrils just above the second or third set of leaves. If the stem there feels tough, pinch above a higher leaf. From the junction where you just snapped the stem, new leaves will emerge and the plant will grow bushier. You can pick the tendrils again when the plants reach your shin. Once flower buds appear, leave them to grow into pods.

pick pea shoots just above a set of leaves

Stir fried or wilted pea greens are now as ubiquitous in American fine dining as in homestyle Asian cooking, where they’ve long been commonplace. Treat them like young spinach (with the flavor of fresh peas). Here is an easy recipe.

Flash Stir-fried Pea Greens

For a good stir-fry, you need a very hot wok and very dry vegetables. Heat your wok over a high flame for a few minutes, until you can feel the heat radiating from the sides when you hold your hand above it. While it’s heating, peel a few cloves of garlic, and get your sauce handy: soy or fish.

Turn the heat down to medium. Splash some oil, a tablespoon or two, into the wok. It must be oil with a high burn point like canola or safflower, NOT olive oil.  Throw in the garlic; tumble it around until it turns golden, in a matter of seconds.

Throw in a handful (or three) of clean dry pea greens. Shuffle them about for only as long as it takes for their color to change, to a deeper vibrant green with a gloss of oil. Turn the tendrils out of the wok, sprinkle and toss them with soy or fish sauce (or both), and serve with rice.