When I think of spring, I think of this salad. Fresh, green, earthy, full of life. Luckily for us southern climates, winter tends to feel like spring most days, so I’ve had the ingredients for this salad growing in my garden all season and this recipe makes perfect use of them.
As the superstar of this salad, pea shoots are an underused salad green. Did you even know they were edible? The young shoots and tendrils of the common pea vine taste faintly of pea and are packed with more vitamin C than blueberries and more vitamin A than tomatoes.
Pea shoots can also be harvested in less than one month’s time after planting, versus the three months it takes before you can pluck a pea pod off the vine. Because of this fast turnaround, peas make an excellent container plant for small spaces as you can simply graze on the greens throughout the season, without the need for a trellis. You can grow several pea plants in a pot, merely spaced an inch apart, and give them an even “haircut” every other week before they have a chance to flower.
If you’re not growing your own peas, you can often find pea shoots at farmers’ markets or Asian markets. (They’re particularly popular in Chinese and Japanese cooking.)
To harvest your own, pull the tip of the vine toward you and slide your fingers down the shoot to the second or third set of leaves. This part of the pea shoot will be the most tender.
Pinch off the shoot just above the leaves where you see a little nub (the leaf node).
A new shoot will sprout from the leaf node within a few days. You can harvest pea shoots two or three times before leaving the vines to flower and produce pods mid-season.
I harvest my shoots from snow peas and English peas, and both are delicious. While you can stir-fry or saute the shoots just like you would any other green, I think their delicate flavor comes out best in a salad!