I've been busting to tell you about the quickest, cheapest and easiest-to-grow salad leaf ever – pea shoots!
Pea shoots are simply the young leaves of a pea plant. Normal garden pea plants take months to grow and require more space and effort that my garden and enthusiasm currently allow. But pea shoots take just 2-4 weeks, and with minimal effort you are rewarded with delicate, juicy and tender leaves and tendrils.
I'd seen pea shoots in restaurant dishes or in expensive plastic bags at the supermarket and thought they must be a bit posh. But when the most excellent Alys Fowler recently demystified them on her show The Edible Garden, it looked so foolproof I had to give them a bash. She has red hair and you have to trust your own kind.
You start with a bag of ordinary old dried peas from the supermarket. This 500g bag cost about 60p and I've sowed six batches from it already.
If you're lucky you might come across these daggy Leo brand dried peas, just like the ones Alys used on her show. These were 51p for 250g so you are paying for the retro packaging.
Grab a container of choice and some potting compost (potting mix as they call it in Australia. What do you call it in the US? Is it all the same? Help me, proper gardeners! I guess I mean some nice healthy brown stuff? I use peat-free). You're only after the shoots here so you don't need it to be very deep – I use an inch or two.
Now scatter over some dried peas, then lightly cover them with some more compost. Water them gently – don't get too carried away like I did otherwise the peas will float to the top and you'll be cranky.
Leave them outdoors or on a sunny window sill. Water them whenever the soil looks a bit dry. If the sun is blasting hot move them into a shadier spot so they don't wilt. Not much of an issue round these parts 🙂
While you wait for the pea shoots to grow you can observe the loony squirrel across the street that climbs up to a second-floor window ledge then can't figure out how to get down.
Honestly he sat there for two hours. At first I thought he was asleep but then I zoomed in on his little face and it was a genuine "how the feck did I get into this mess?" expression. We were just about to head across the street with a ladder when he finally scrambled down.
So here's the first batch of pea shoots. I went completely overboard with the dried peas so it was like a pea afro. Once they're an inch or two high you just head outside with your scissors whenever you want a salad and snip off some leaves! Or just stick your face right into the plant and nibble like a rabbit.
They taste best when they're young and crisp – here in Scotland it's taking about two or three weeks. The flavour is delicate and fresh and faintly pea-some. After that the leaves start going a little flimsy.
Uses for pea shoots: Salads (especially when feta is involved!), stir-fries; garnishes for soups. Maybe stick them in those green smoothies. I like just munching a handful of shoots by themselves.
Growing pea shoots is so easy and perfect if you're short on space. They grow in pretty much anything – I'm using old yogurt pots and those dishes that mushrooms often come in – just punch some holes in the bottom for drainage.
So if you love your greenery and resent paying £2 for a plastic bag of weeds down the shops, why not give them a go?