Secrets of pea shoots detailed in Extension gardening booklet

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Last Updated: 
April 2, 2007

CORVALLIS - If you've visited any regional restaurants lately, you may have eaten pea shoots, the young tender vine tips of green or garden peas.

Pea shoots are commonly served fresh in salads or as a garnish, or are lightly steamed or sautéed in stir-fried Asian-style dishes.

Oregon State University, Washington State University and University of Idaho Extension have jointly published a booklet for growers and home gardeners on how to grow pea shoots in the Pacific Northwest.

The top 2 to 6 inches of a younger pea plant, pea shoots are harvested to include two to four pairs of leaves and immature tendrils. They may also include small flower buds and blossoms. These shoots have a mild "pea pod" flavor and are delicate, crisp, light and refreshing.

The Hmong people of Southeast Asia introduced pea shoots to this country. Hmong farmers also introduced pea shoots to farmers' markets in the Pacific Northwest. They are rapidly gaining popularity in our region.

Pea shoots are easy to grow and harvest in the spring and they are a good source of vitamins K, C and are especially high in vitamin A.

Pea varieties that are well suited for this area include snowgreen, a short vine snow pea; Oregon sugar pod II and Oregon giant, all disease-resistant bush snow peas developed at OSU. Also suitable is Cascadia, a disease resistant variety of snap pea also developed at OSU.

Plant them the same way as other peas. The soil must be at least 40 degrees for germination, about an inch deep with about 2-4 inches between peas. Pea shoots can also be grown in a winter greenhouse, with supplemental lighting required from November to March.

When plants are 6 to 8 inches tall, clip off the growing points plus one pair of leaves to encourage branching. These clippings are your first pea shoot harvest of the season.

Keep clipping the top 2 to 6 inches of each plant after regrowth – about every three to four weeks. Harvested pea shoots should include the top pair of small leaves, delicate tendrils and a few larger leaves and blossoms or immature buds. Select shoots that are fresh, crisp, bright green and undamaged. Those with immature blossoms are especially attractive for use as an edible garnish or in a fresh green salad.

A single planting can be harvested until shoots taste bitter, late in the growing season. Researchers found that in western Washington, that plants clipped down to 2 to 4 inches tall in July will regrow and produce a fall crop of pea shoots. Wash and spin dry harvested pea shoots as you would lettuce.

For more information on "Pea Shoots," PNW 567, visit our on-line catalog. Our publications and video catalog at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/ shows which publications are available on the Web and which can be ordered as printed publications.

Besides providing information on climate, soil and fertilizer requirements for commercial harvest, "Pea Shoots," recommends varieties and methods of growing shoots. Other aspects covered include: methods of pest and disease control, and tips on irrigation, harvest, storage and marketing. Nutritional information and references are provided.

Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Del Hemphill