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March 22, 2014

The Pea Shoot

by Anne Paddock

Sprouts – miniature seedlings that grow from a seed – leave me feeling ambivalent as in…I should like them more than I do. In most grocery stores and markets, plastic containers showcasing bright green, yellow, and red sprouts – alfalfa, broccoli, clover, bean, radish – are displayed next to salad greens and fresh bunches of cilantro, parsley, and other herbs. Just seeing fresh seedlings makes me want to buy them. Nutritious and raw, sprouts make sandwiches and salads look appetizing and are supposed to add flavor but more often than not, I’ve always felt like there is something missing in the flavor department, until I tasted pea shoots which was love at first bite.

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Shoots are very similar to sprouts with the primary difference being that shoots are grown on soil and need light (whereas sprouts don’t need soil). Shoots are also considered to be a more mature version of the plant.  Pea shoots come from the pea plant (no big surprise there) and are the leaves of the traditional garden grown green pea although there are many variations of the pea shoot including the snow pea shoot.canstockphoto16499176

Crunchy, sweet, and delicious, the pea shoot tastes like a very sweet freshly picked pea, but with the texture of a firm sprout. Harvested when the leaves are young, the pea shoot is tender (no bitterness ever) and bursting with green pea flavor which makes them the perfect addition to many dishes. Revitalize a salad, add a new dimension to a sandwich, or add to mixed sautéed vegetables for a pea-shoot-licious meal.

Trader Joe’s sells organic pea shoots – 4 ounces for $2.49 – nationwide but they can also be purchased at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Look for bright green leaves and firm whitish-green stems.

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