Pea Power

IMG_3983Unbeknownst to many, the entire pea plant is edible – leaves, vine, flowers and pods. A sure sign of spring are when the pea shoots arrive.

Pea shoots are the immature (young) leaves and stems. If you have not tried them, you are missing out. Pea shoots can be grown almost anytime of the year and grow in just a few weeks. Pea shoots are a delicate green that are low in calories and packed with nutrients ~ vitamins A, C, K and folic acid to name a few. The variety of pea will slightly alter the taste of the pea shoot – but they will all taste like peas. When the pea shoots are harvested will change the mouth-feel. For example, if the shoots are harvested when the plant is more mature, the shoots will be stringy. Pea shoots can be consumed raw or cooked. Move over lettuce, I have a new green on my plate! Personally, I love them raw – add to a salad, as greens on a sandwich or straight off the plant (or if picking up at the farm – out of the bag). Pea shoot recipes

Pea tendrils are the tops of the mature pea plant. As peas age the plant becomes more fibrous to support the weight of the plant. If the top can be snapped off my hand, it will be good to eat. It is a delight to pinch the top 8″ of a pea plant, with the flowers and tendrils, and munch on it in front of our guests! Here is a simple recipe – note they are cooked slightly longer than pea shoots.

Pea pods are the fruit of the plant. Pea pods are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. They are also a good source of B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin and niacin) and fiber. They have a mild flavor and are slightly sweet. Once again, they are amazing raw. They have an amazing textural combination of being crunchy and moist. They can be consumed raw or cooked. They are excellent as a snack or in addition to a meal. If you’re lucky, you may be able to try out some recipes. It is rare that my pea pods make it home from the farm, much less in a prepared dish.

If you have a few minutes, I would suggest reading Elaine Sciolino’s New York Times article “Spring brings caviar in a pod.” It’s an interesting and engaging article about peas and their place in French cuisine and culture.

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