Easy to love, pea shoots can’t be beat for tenderness, a pleasantly mild pea-like flavor, and slight crunchiness, and for their whimsical visual addition to salads of all kinds, wraps, or toppings for fish or meat. These are some of the reasons the popularity of pea shoots is skyrocketing.
Once considered a springtime specialty, the only pea shoots available were clipped from the tips of garden pea plants, and were often a bit chewy or fibrous. Now they are being grown year-round in greenhouse flats, hydroponically, or in fields at Mermaid Farm, Morning Glory, Ghost Island Farm, and the Hub at Thimble Farm.
Cut from flats after a few weeks’ growth at just 3 to 5 inches, the young stems and tiny leaves (both edible) are much more tender and sweet. Nutritionally, pea shoots provide significant amounts of beta carotene, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and protein. Usually sold bagged or in clear salad boxes, they’re ready for use after a quick rinse in the salad spinner.
In the kitchen, pea shoots shine, as you would expect, in all types of salads, especially in those with grains, beans, chicken, pasta, or potatoes. The mild, sweet flavor makes it a match with everything from strawberries to feta. Stuff them into sandwiches or wraps. On this seafood-abundant island, pea shoots serve as a good base for smoked bluefish, lobster, or salmon.
Pea shoots can be substituted for other soft leafy greens in recipes. I use them instead of lettuce in spring rolls, along with veggies and herbs, even lobster sometimes.
Two pea shoot dinner salads I can’t stop making include roasted salmon and pea shoot salad platter here. The cooled salmon is gently mixed with a platter of pea shoots, along with sliced cucumber, diced avocado, white beans, and slivered red cabbage. The dressing is a simple lemon vinaigrette with fresh herbs. The platter looks beautiful, and makes the perfect casual lunch or dinner for summer company.
The other favorite is a Thai Peanut Chicken Salad, which combines pea shoots with shredded chicken, sliced cucumber, carrot matchsticks, snow peas, and a ginger-lime peanut dressing. You can find this recipe on my website, catherinewalthers.com.
The nutrition and versatility of pea shoots in the kitchen should convince you to make this green a regular addition to your repertoire.
Where to find local pea shoots
The Farm Hub at Thimble Farm, available at the farm or through down-Island Cronig’s Market
Ghost Island Farm, off State Road at Nip & Tuck Farm, West Tisbury
Mermaid Farm and Dairy, 9 Middle Road, Chilmark
Morning Glory Farm, 120 Meshaket Road, off Edgartown–West Tisbury Road, Edgartown
Roasted Salmon Dinner Salad
1 to 1½ pounds fresh salmon
4 cups pea shoot greens, rinsed and spun dry
1 cup red cabbage or radicchio, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, skin peeled, cut into strips or small dice
1 large or English cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 cup white cannellini beans, rinsed (I recommend Goya beans)
½ small red onion, sliced razor-thin
1 just-ripe avocado, diced
Fresh Lemon Vinaigrette
4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. honey or maple syrup
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley or basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper (if you have it) and place salmon on top. Sprinkle with salt and a film of olive oil. Depending on thickness, bake for 18-20 minutes, or until cooked through, and then cooled. When cooled, remove any skin and dark parts underneath and break gently into chunks.
Place the pea shoots in a large, wide bowl or platter, with enough room to show off the toppings. Gently mix in the red cabbage or radicchio, yellow pepper, cucumber, carrot, beans, and red onion.
Make the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, garlic, herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper in a mason jar. Pass the dressing at the table and let each guest spoon or pour their own. Shake well.
Just before serving, gently mix the salmon into the salad. Top with the diced avocado.