On the phone a few weeks ago with a friend who lives in Minneapolis, I listened jealously as she described what they were already getting at their farmer's market, all the crazy asian greens, and how much she especially loves the pea shoots. Pea shoots?
Always ready to whinge about my sad vegetable fate at the tail end of winter, I lamented the fact that while the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market has fabulous produce, apart from the occasional emu egg, it's pretty mainstream. It doesn't seem to have a lot of the interesting ethnic fruits and vegetables (tiny eggplants, yard-long beans, shiso leaves, multi-cultural herbs) that are available in bigger, more diverse places like Minneapolis and Madison. I told her I had never seen pea shoots at our market and probably never would.
Well, shut my mouth. That same week I went to the Saturday market and there was Rob MacKercher of Garden Works selling certified organic pea shoots no less, right in between the salad mix and tiny baby arugula.
It made me think two things: one was - how much do I miss because I assume it's not there? And the other was - is it really just a matter of opening my eyes? Because the other option seems to be that the universe could be a giant wish-granting machine....
What are pea shoots anyways? Well, they are the bright green tender, growing ends of a pea plant. Apparently, they often come from a snow-pea plant (the shoots from edible-podded varieties of peas taste the best I've read), but any pea plant can be harvested this way. The shoots can be eaten raw or lightly cooked. And they taste like fresh, sweet, spring peas! Rob says he's tried growing them outside, but they get a little too tough for his liking so he's growing them in a hoophouse. And I asked if he can keep harvesting pea shoots from the same plants, but he said no it's a one-shot deal.
The University of Washington calls pea shoots a "nutrient-dense" green and says that for 10 calories from 2 cups of pea shoots, your RDA gets 35% of its vitamin C, 15% of its vitamin A, 132% of its vitamin K, and 10% of its folate. So, 2 cups of pea shoots sounds like a lot, but I can assure you that if you decide to cook them you will get about 2 tablespoons of cooked (delicious!) greens.
What to make with the pea shoots? I've made a pork (thanks Old Pine Farm!) and pea shoot stir fry a couple of times now and each time wished I had gotten more shoots. (See above for how much the shoots shrink. Maybe they should be called pea shrinks?)
I have plans to branch out soon though. Epicurious has a bunch of recipes that look good to me, including: Kohlrabi Slivers and Pea Shoots with Sesame Dressing, Tarragon Shallot Egg Salad Sandwiches, and how about Pea Shoot and Spinach Salad with Bacon and Shiitakes. Mmmm.
Now that I've got the pea shoots covered, I wonder what I should wish for next. Maybe rhubarb. Heh heh.
Pea shoot update: I love the Asian Legend restaurant on William St. even more now that I know they have a seasonal special of "pea tips." Fried with garlic. Ask for it by name.