Pea tendrils (also known as pea shoots) are harvested when the pea plants are 12-18 inches out of the ground. Young leaves and shoots of the snow pea plant and taste like a cross between peas and spinach. While they are growing, any flowers that develop are plucked off, so the sweet pea flavor goes into the leaves and tender stems. They’re best used when freshly picked as they rapidly toughen and, like peas, lose their sweetness. They’re delicate and tasty when gently stir-fried, or can be enjoyed raw as a salad green. The shoots are very tender, so only cook for a short period of time.
Pea shoots became popular among restaurant chefs in the U.S. in the 1990s, but these tender greens are a staple of Asian cuisine. Pea tendrils are a staple of Chinese cuisine, often used in soups and stir-fries. Since they gained popularity, pea tendrils are a fairly common, yet expensive vegetable, offered off and on throughout the year.
Storing & Cooking Information
Handling: Wash and spin dry harvested pea shoots as you would lettuce. If you see some larger stems, make sure to remove them. The tough stalks are not fun to eat. It's crucial to pinch off just the most tender tendrils from the tops and remove any part of the stem that's remotely woody or tough. Pea shoots are best when prepared simply, so that their gentle sweetness isn't lost.
Storing: Wrap them in a paper towel and place them in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator. Pea shoots are tender, so use within a few days.