How to Grow and Harvest Pea Shoots

Pea shoots, the young and tender growing tips of Pisum sativum plants, are an early spring treat with a decidedly gourmet appeal.

Plus, these delicious garden greens are easy to grow and harvest, and can be part of a low waste gardening strategy.

A horizontal close up of pea shoots growing in dark, rich soil.

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Wondering if the greens of these legumes make good eating?

Tender and mild tasting, these fast-growing veggies have a crisp texture and a mild, pea-like flavor. And these treats of the garden can be used either raw or cooked in numerous culinary creations.

Ready to learn how to cultivate and pick them?

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

Growing Pea Shoots

First of course, you’ll want to sow some seeds, and you might wonder if it matters which variety you choose.

A horizontal photo of mature snow pea pods growing in a garden.

These leguminous greens can be harvested from any variety of P. sativum – but that does not include sweet peas (Lathryrus odoratus), which are unrelated ornamental plants that are considered toxic.

However, snow pea varieties are the types most often grown for their green shoots.

Don’t yet have a stock of seed packets to use for this gardening project?

A square photo of pea shoots lying on a wooden cutting board with a sharp black-handled knife lying next to them.

Pea Seeds for Growing Shoots

You can purchase organic seed for sowing P. sativum shoots in pack sizes ranging from a quarter of a pound to 40 pounds from High Mowing Organic Seeds.

These legumes are cool season crops, so sow them in early spring, or in late summer for a fall harvest.

Whether cultivating them in the ground, in a raised bed, or in containers, sow the seeds of these vining vegetables four to six weeks before your average last frost for spring crops, or 10 to 12 weeks before your first frost for fall harvests.

A horizontal photo of a gardener pouring seeds out of a paper envelope into his open hand.

You can also cultivate these legumes indoors if you prefer.

Wherever you grow them, sow seeds one inch deep.

Sow seeds two inches apart in rows that are 18 inches apart. In square foot gardening beds, sow eight seeds per square foot.

If you need more tips on cultivating these plants, be sure to read our complete guide to growing peas.

Harvesting and Storing

Once the seeds germinate and sprout, you might be wondering how long to wait before harvesting.

Allow plants to reach eight to 12 inches tall before gathering a first crop.

When harvesting, pick only the top two to six inches of the young growing tips, which are the most tender.

These should have two to four pairs of leaves – you’ll be picking the whip-like tendril at the end of the stem, as well as any flower buds or blossoms.

A vertical photo of pea plants growing in rows in the garden.

You can use a pair of scissors or garden snips to collect your harvest, or simply snap the tips off between your fingernails.

I consider these greens as a bonus crop that I harvest in small quantities from my pod-bearing vines, and find that there are always plenty of tender tips to harvest without taking any extra measures.

But if you really want the vines to focus on shoot production instead of bearing pods, remove flower buds as the plants grow. That way these legumes will concentrate all their energy on producing new foliage and not flowers.

A horizontal photo of pea shoots in a white bowl against a wooden table background.

These greens are best used fresh from the garden, so try to pluck them right before you’re ready to cook or plate them.

You can make harvested shoots last longer by cooling them off in a bowl of ice water as soon as you bring them in from the garden.

And if you pick more than you can use at one time, wrap them in a paper towel and then store the greens in the refrigerator in an open plastic bag. Use these greens within two days, as after that they will start to wilt.

Preparing and Cooking Fresh Shoots

Clean the fresh greens right before you plan to use them. To clean and freshen them up, I like to soak them in cold water using the bowl of a salad spinner, then rinse and drain.

A horizontal close up of a woman holding a handful of pea foliage in both of her hands.

There are so many ways that pea shoots can be used in the kitchen!

When it comes to enjoying them raw, a couple of the easiest uses for them is to add these fresh greens to salads or place them on top of culinary creations as garnishes.

A horizontal photo of a bowl of rice with pea shoot garnishes on the top.

You can also throw a handful into the blender with apples, lettuce, and bok choy to make a tasty green smoothie.

A horizontal photo of pea shoots in a green smoothie in a glass mason jar. Pea shoots, grapes and green apples are lying next to the smoothie on a table.

These greens are also delicious when added to stir fries, or sauteed on their own as a side dish.

And to help warm up during the cool days of early spring, these leguminous trimmings can add flavor and color to a hearty soup made with homegrown potatoes, carrots, and dry beans.

More Legume Blooms to Consume

After reading this article, you should be all set to eat more pea plant parts! Just be sure to harvest your shoots tender.

A horizontal shot of young pea shoots in a field ready to harvest.

Do you have any advice of your own for our readers about cultivating or harvesting these legumes for their tender growing tips? Do you have a favorite variety for this purpose? Let us know in the comments section below, and if you have any questions, feel free to drop them there as well!

Want to learn more about cultivating peas in the garden? We have more reading for you right here:

Photo of author
Kristina Hicks-Hamblin lives on a dryland permaculture homestead in the high desert of Utah. She is a Certified Permaculture Designer, holds a Certificate in Native Plant Studies from the University of North Carolina Botanical Gardens, a Landscape for Life certificate through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Kristina strives towards creating gardens where there are as many birds and bees as there are edibles.

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