Peas are a common vegetable in most of the western world, but what about pea shoots? Pea shoots come from a different part of the pea plant and can be a great addition to a healthy diet. This article will explain more the health benefits of pea shoots and how to best enjoy them.
What Are Pea Shoots?
Pea shoots, also known as pea tendrils or pea greens, are the small leaves and vine tips of common variety pea plants. While peas are part of the legume family, pea shoots are eaten and prepared like other leafy vegetables.
Pea shoots are different from pea sprouts, which are just-sprouting plants. Pea shoots look like large long-stemmed clovers, with broad, round leaves.
Pea shoots taste similar to the pea seeds but with a little more of an earthy taste. They’re considered a microgreen but are often more expensive than typical microgreens because they go bad much quicker.
What Are the Health Benefits of Pea Shoots?
Just like peas, pea shoots offer many nutritional benefits. While low in macronutrients like carbs and fats, pea shoots contain a good amount of protein and fiber. They are also rich in vitamins. A serving of 100 grams of pea shoots contains:
Vitamin K. One 100-gram serving of pea shoots offers 267% of your recommended daily allowance. Vitamin K helps build bones and is essential for blood clotting. About 67% of the U.S. population doesn’t get enough vitamin K in their diet.
Vitamin C. The amount of vitamin C in 100 grams of pea shoots is 76% of your recommended daily allowance. Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, plays a role in forming blood vessels, cartilage, collagen, and muscle, and also helps your body heal. Your body can’t produce vitamin C on its own, and almost 40% of people don’t get enough of it in their diet.
Vitamin A. One 100-gram serving of pea shoots contain 43% of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin A. Vitamin A is an antioxidant and aids in growth, vision, reproduction, and cell division. About 43% of people are deficient in vitamin A.
Eating 100 grams of pea shoots will also give you 37% of your recommended daily intake of manganese, 24% of vitamin E, and 23% of folate.
How to Cook and Eat Pea Shoots
Most people eat pea shoots raw, but you can also cook them. Before preparing pea shots, remove wilted leaves and tough ends or stems. Rinse them in cold water to prevent wilting leaves. Take care to lift and swirl them to get out any dirt or grit. Dry them on a paper towel or with a salad spinner.
If you aren’t using your pea shoots immediately, you can store them in the fridge for a day or two. Wrap the pea shoots in paper towels, put them in a plastic bag, and store them in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Pea shoots don’t freeze well, so keep them above 28°F.
Raw pea shoots are great in salads and on sandwiches. When cooked, they work great as a side dish, in stir-fry dishes, or as a replacement for spinach in pasta and casseroles. If you want to cook pea shoots, use methods like steaming and sautéing. Pea shoots cook down about 90% in volume, so if you’re cooking them, you’ll need a lot.
How to Grow Pea Shoots
If you’re already growing peas in your garden, you’re also growing pea shoots. If you want to get started growing peas and pea shoots, follow these tips for a successful pea crop:
- Peas grow best in temperatures between 55°F to 65°F, so it’s best to plant them in spring or late summer.
- Choose a full sun spot for your peas with good drainage. If you’re in an area with wet weather, plant your peas in raised beds to avoid drowning them.
- Plant your peas 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost, and be sure the soil temperature is at least 40°F.
- Peas prefer sandy or clay soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
- The fertilizer you choose for your peas should have phosphorus and potassium, but peas don’t need extra nitrogen.
- Don’t plant your peas in the same place more often than once every four years.
- Plant your peas about an inch deep. Plants should be two inches apart, and rows should be seven inches apart.
- Don’t let the soil dry out, but be careful not to overwater the peas.
- Be careful when removing weeds, as the pea roots are fragile and easily disturbed.
- Different varieties of peas will have different indicators of when to harvest. However, most types are ready about two months after planting.
- Start trimming your pea greens when the plant reaches 6 to 8 inches tall. The more you cut, the more the plant will continue to grow more greens.
- Keep an eye out for aphids, beetles, nematodes, wireworms, fungus, and mold.
Should You Add Pea Shoots to Your Diet?
Pea shoots are an excellent source of micronutrients that are often lacking in many people's meals. They’ll add a bit of protein and fiber to your diet, as well as vitamins C, A, K, and other vital vitamins and minerals. They’re easy to incorporate into your diet to add a nutrient boost.
The downside to pea shoots is that they don’t last long. They’re one of the more expensive types of produce to buy. However, if you’re already growing pea plants, you’re also growing pea shoots. If you’re not cultivating pea plants already, peas could be a great garden addition, as you get two types of healthy veggies from one plant.