Pea shoots, a newer ingredient showing up in farmer’s markets across America, have long been prominent in other cultures, like Asian cuisine. With tendrils in the shape of curly-cues and leaves soft like potherbs, watery-stemmed pea shoots ensure the promise of spring peas to come.
Offering the flavor of peas, their edible shoots are almost more appealing to farmers and gardeners because they can be harvested in a quarter of the time of peas themselves. And apart from flavor, their rich nutrients have recently made them just as appealing to the home cook. Pea shoots quite literally look like plants when untouched– a quality I love, but my boys do not. That’s where my transformative yet simple recipe swoops in: Pea Greens with Toasted Garlic and Almonds.
If pea shoots aren’t in your local market this April, any soft, leafy green can be substituted in this recipe. The stems are much like watercress, and the tendrils cook very similarly to baby spinach; ingredients easy to come by in any grocery store.
Since pea shoots are a delicate green, they should be eaten in one to two days of purchase. Store them in the refrigerator as you would lettuce and remove the yellow, coarse stems prior to eating. To prep, rinse trimmed pea greens in cold water and then drain them. Do not use a spinner because you want the leaves to retain some water. Much like peas need consistent moisture to develop pods throughout the early growing phase, pea leaves need moisture to maintain their full flavor as well.
Once prepped, you can consume pea greens raw in a fresh salad to add extraordinary spring flavor. They can also brighten up a pasta dish, contributing a soft texture and fresh taste. Or, as I use them, pea greens are a bold choice when served all on their own as a side dish with a sprinkle of toasted garlic and almonds.