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How to Harvest Pea Shoots

My favorite part of gardening is growing food that is hard—if not impossible—to find at grocery stores. Pea shoots fall firmly into this category (unless you are lucky enough to live by a great Asian market). The shoots, which are the tips of the pea vines, make the most fantastic salad green. They look like a pretty pile of scrollwork on the plate. And they taste divine, too. Kind of like peas, only lighter and sweeter.

In the garden I plant my peas about an inch apart. This super close spacing allows me to pinch out every plant when the shoots are 4 to 6 inches tall and have a delicious salad. I let the remaining shoots grow and pinch them back once when they are about 12 to 18 inches tall. After that I let the vines grow so they can produce pods.

In order to have an ample supply of both pea shoots and pea pods, I have taken a cue from my friend Lorene and started growing peas exclusively for their shoots in a crate on my patio. I pinch back the shoots about once every 7 to 10 days and the peas respond by sending up even more shoots. The shoots from snow, sugar snap, and English peas are all delicious. Just don’t be tempted to sample pea shoots from sweet pea flowers—they are not edible.

So where do you pinch? Grab a shoot by its tip and trace the stem down past the emerging growth and past the next lowest leaf. Stop at the second large leaf down. If you look closely where the stem emerges from the leaf you might see a little chartreuse nub (see the arrow above). That is where you want to pinch.

By removing the growth above that little nub, you signal it to grow into a new shoot. Don’t see a nub? Just pinch as close as you can above the leaf. If the shoot feels a little tough, move up and pinch above the next highest leaf. Shoots that are 2 or 3 inches long are the most tender; 4 to 6 inch ones are also tasty but are best cooked briefly in a stir fry.

I took this picture just a couple of days after pinching the shoots back. As you can see the little nubs are starting to grow!

I’ve found that I can harvest the shoots growing in containers for 2 or even 3 months (depending on the heat). This means I’ve had a continual supply of shoots since early April and they are still going strong. The peas in my garden (‘Arrow’ and ‘Super Sugar Snap’) will be finished producing pods in the next week or so. Before I pull the vines out, I will pinch back the tips for one last harvest of pea shoots.

I also planted some seeds in a little terracotta pot that was hanging around in our garage. I’m using it as centerpiece on our patio table. When we are sitting outside in the evening we often just pinch the shoots back from the centerpiece and snack on them. It’s such a luxury!

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21 Responses to “How to Harvest Pea Shoots”

  1. 1
    Amy Says:

    This is such a valuable post for me. Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve harvested pea shoots in the past, but was always afraid of not pinching in the right place.

  2. 2
    Tyler Says:

    Perfect timing! I was just wondering how I should go about harvesting our pea vines. Thank you!

  3. 3
    Diana Says:

    Thank you for the lesson on pinching! I was wondering how to harvest our pea shoots.
    Diana´s last [type] ..Reiki Distance Healing

  4. 4
    Dennis Says:

    Great tip, than you!

  5. 5
    Kat Says:

    One quick question – after you finish harvesting completely, is there any reason you wouldn’t replant your bin with seeds and start the process over again before fall?

  6. 6
    myla Says:

    Thank you, Willi. I just love this post. I am going to share it with friends.

  7. 7
    Lisa | Life in Green Says:

    Great how-to post. Think I’ll be visiting my peas later today!

  8. 8
    Karen B Says:

    Usually I have trouble enough timing my plantings to get peas to start, but the last two years, the problem has been staking the drooping tall mass–the result of a long, cool, wet spring. Next year, I’ll harvest more shoots to tame the height and cause each remaining plant to multiply its pea pod-making stems. Those gear sounds? Making a mental note…
    Karen B´s last [type] ..Halfway through the Year–A Progress Report

  9. 9
    Stéphanie Says:

    Thank you for this post on pea shoots! I’ve sown peas for exactly this purpose, having seen in my local newspaper you could eat the shoots. However, I wasn’t sure how much, when to pinch, etc. So again, thank you very much!

    Stéphanie´s last [type] ..La meilleure recette de sangria

  10. 10
    Trish Says:

    Hi Willie,
    this is not about pea shoots, but about corn. Don’t know if you have grown much of it in your garden but I was told today that it’s a good idea to pinch off some of the lower shoots so that the main upper corn will have more energy to get bigger. Heard of anything like that? Let me know your thoughts or where I can reseach it…(I have tried but to no avail.)
    Thanks much – Trish

  11. 11
    Josh Says:

    For a few days, I’ve suspected my snap peas are on their way out for the season. I went out this morning to cut them down and had a vague memory that you had posted about using the shoots. So–thanks! I checked in here and was able to harvest a huge salad of tender pea shoots before composting the rest of the vines.

    Btw, thanks too for your post about what to replant mid-summer. I’d love to plant some cherry tomatoes where the peas stood to make use of the trellis I built, but unfortunately, I’m having a hard time finding any tomato seedlings this late in the year….maybe next year I can plan ahead and have some growing from seed a little later for transplanting.
    Josh´s last [type] ..Eating out of the garden every day

  12. 12
    Andrea Says:

    Hi Willi,
    First off, great post on peas. I’ll have to remember the shoots for next season as I’ve been harvesting peas and I think they are on their way out cause our temps around Boise are low 90′s for forseeable future. However, I have a question that may be completely silly but I was wondering…what if I just stuck my container peas (climbing on trellis) in the shade and kept them moist.. would they start growing again (and produce peas) this fall when temps cool a bit? Or is it a definite rule, pea plants only produce one crop and then die…just curious…
    Andrea´s last [type] ..Friday “Top 10″

  13. 13
    rebecca @ baydirt Says:

    Thanks for this! I have tons of pea shoots. I’ve been throwing them in salads, which is tasty. I don’t know why but I’m always pleasantly surprised that the shoots have such a fresh pea taste.
    rebecca @ baydirt´s last [type] ..Gray Days in July

  14. 14
    Kris Says:

    Is it too late to plant peas? I love this idea. Can I still get seeds, or would I able to find starts?

  15. 15
    Willi Says:

    Kat–You can definitely just replant. If you live in a super hot summer climate, you might want to wait until late August.

    Trish–I haven’t ever heard that advice. I think the most important thing to do is to choose a variety that reliably ripens in your climate. I like ‘Bodacious’ quite a bit.

    Andrea–I’ve heard that you can cut peas down to about 3 inches, keep them moist, and they will start growing again in fall. I’m actually going to try it with my sugar snap peas, which finally just stopped producing. We shall see…

    Kris–Depends where you live. If you live in the PNW, I would put peas for a fall crop in the ground the beginning of August.

  16. 16
    Tanya Says:

    Thanks, very helpful – I wish there were more how-to-harvest-specific-things posts like this out there!

    (And for what it’s worth on the corn question – my dad told me that same thing recently, that you are supposed to break off the shoots near the base of the corn stalk. He didn’t say why, but I tend to do what he says when it comes to gardening as he’s a farmer.) :)

  17. 17
    Trish Says:

    Thank you, Tanya, for the advise on the corn… I volunteer at a new botanical garden of which I caretake the vegetable garden. So, what I did with the corn (before I had an answer to my question) was to cut off the side shoots from half of the small plot and leave the other half alone. So, by fall I should have a sure-answer as to whether or not breaking off the side stalks from the beginning of their growth allows the main stalk to produce better – I agree with your Dad that it does – thanks, Dad! And, thank you, Willi for suggesting a local variety of corn – ‘Bodacious’. I am assuming that is a good one for the Seattle area (East corridor). Thanks.

  18. 18
    Sandi Jacobs Says:

    I broke off the top half of a pea shoot. Can I reroot it somehow or did I just lose the top half my most productive pea shoot?

  19. 19
    Willi Says:

    Sandi–Not too worry! Just take a look at the shoot. If you didn’t break it off right above a leaf, go back in and pinch of the stub right above the next lowest leaf. It should re-sprout!

  20. 20
    Chris Says:

    So I have my some Oregon 2 Sugar snaps growing, and they have already put out pods, can I still harvest some shoots? I did not know about this so ya, totally awesome!!! Great pics and explanations!

  21. 21
    Mansoor Says:

    i have planted pea plant 1 months above passes but my pea plant is not growing in it height only 4 leaves i have got and they too are only getting broader and broader it has got so heavy that leaves are breaking from middel becaus of its own weight . whats wrong going on?

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