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Windowsill gardening: Pea shoots

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Sitting in the kitchen window is a pot stuffed with tender pea shoots. These harbingers whistle a tune of fresh, tasty spring.

Also known as pea tendrils or tips, shoots are the delicate tangle of stems and leaves that start forming on snow, sugar snap or any run-of-the-mill garden variety of peas. These pint-sized gems unite a smack of pea flavor and nutrition, without the waiting. From planting to the beginning of harvest is two to four weeks.

Pea shoots were ‘discovered’ by chefs and soon thereafter by home cooks in 1992 - Leafy Greens by Mark Bittman

Some green grocers and markets will carry pea shoots, but they are easily grown from seed. The basics are:

Pick up some seed. Territorial Seed Company carries a nice selection of organic seeds and their products are available at most of our local garden centers. A couple of types to try are Cascadia, Oregon Sugar Pod or Maestro.

  • Place seeds in a wide mouth jar. Cover with water and let soak for a few minutes. Secure a piece of cheese cloth over the opening of the container and drain the water. It’s okay to leave some moisture in the jar.
  • Put the jar of seeds in the windowsill. For the next several days add water, soak and drain until the seeds begin to sprout. Now it’s time to plant the pea crop. Any pot or dish will do. Put a couple inches of planting mix into the pot, closely nestling the sprouted seeds in the soil.
  • When the shoots have reached three to five inches they are ready to harvest.

Now that your windowsill crop is producing, how should they be relished? Let me count the ways: use in place of lettuce or other sprouts in sandwiches, mixed with warm pasta and handfuls of herbs. Hearty beef stew is lighter with a bouquet of pea shoots tossed in. How about a riff on creamed peas and new potatoes?

New Potatoes with Cream and Pea Shoots

You will need:
2 lbs new or baby red potatoes, fingerlings are nice
2 cups coarsely chopped pea shoots
½ cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic finely minced
½ cup chopped chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Scrub potatoes and place in a 4 quart saucepan. Cover with water and add a good teaspoon of salt. Place on burner, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are just soft. Drain and keep warm.

Heat the cream and garlic in a small pan until steamy. Pour the garlic-infused cream over the potatoes; carefully mix in the pea shoots and chives. Taste for salt and pepper. Garnish with additional pea shoots and chive blossoms.

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