How to grow pea shoots

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.

home grown pea shoots

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.

dried marrowfat peas

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.

Leo Dried Peas

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.

sow your dried peas

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.

stuck squirrel

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.

Squirrel descends

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.

Pea afro

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.

Peas6

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?

The Forbidden Eclair

Highlights of the past few weeks:

Soda-bread

Kicking off a mission to bake 50 different kinds of bread before I leave this earth.
This is brown soda bread, which is like Bread for Dummies since you just use baking soda – no faffing with yeast. It was bloody beautiful, especially dunked in Reassurance Soup.

Kids

Looking after the kids.
It’s still a “shove random things in pots and cross fingers” approach because gardening books and websites just make me scream in confusion after awhile. But it’s all looking green, so rock on!

Scruffy

Watching Scruffy, my new favourite Eating Disorder Pigeon, potter round the yard.
Maybe he got into a brawl or a cat tried to take him out. He was pretty much ignored by the other EDPs…

Scruffy makes a move

… but recently began to pursue a pretty little bird.

Scruffy in love

A week later and they’re inseparable, guzzling seeds and wandering side by side down the rows in the veggie patch. Until Dr G yells out the window, “Oi! Get arf my parsnips!”

Metallica

Dr G and I also spent a couple of days in Belfast and saw a Metallica gig.

Eclair
And Dr G ate a chocolate eclair the size of his head.

(I had a custard tart with berries on it but the photo was blurry; hands shaking from anticipation)

Gareth is usually indifferent to sweets so I was surprised when he said, “Oh man, I’m having that eclair!”

“Really?” I said.

“Oh aye. I always wanted to have a chocolate eclair when I was a kid and Mum never let me have one so now I’m going to have one!”

“Dude that’s a slippery slope,” I joked, “I spent years eating all the stuff my mother never let me have when I was a kid and I’m still paying for it!”

He only got halfway through before threw down his spoon in defeat, saying that maybe his Mum had his best interests at heart after all.

How to grow your own sprouts

Sprouts I've had some emails asking how I went about growing mung bean sprouts. Sprouts have to be the easiest way to get some homegrown greenery in your life so I thought I'd share what I've learned so far.

What is sprouting?
Sprouting is the fine art of soaking, draining and rinsing seeds and beans until they germinate, or sprout.

The most common kind you see supermarkets are alfalfa and mung beans but there's gazillions of sproutables, such as adzuki beans, broccoli seeds, chickpeas/garbanzos, hemp seeds, lentils, quinoa seeds and sunflower seeds.

Why should I grow spouts?

  • They're dead tasty – they're magic on sandwiches (my favourite chicken, alfalfa and avocado) and have a magic way of pulling a salad together. Try the Leon superfood salad if you need convincing!
  • They're cheap – a little bag of alfalfa costs £1 in my local supermarket and I get a maximum 3 salads out of it. 100g of alfalfa seed is £2.70 and you can grow piles more.
  • They're good for you – see below.
  • They're easy greens –You don't need a garden. You don't need dirt. You can grow them any time of year. They hate direct sunlight so they're perfect if you live in the dreary north.

What you do need is…

  • Water – as they need to be rinsed twice a day. So if you live in Australia or lived there for a long time you'll have to deal with great stabs of guilt every time you rinse.
  • A decent memory – it's so easy to forget to bathe the little fellas!

Why are they so good for you?
I don't know. I just like how they taste! Allow me to cut and paste some information from the internet.

Sprouts are highly nutritious because "they contain all elements a plant needs for life and growth." This is from World's Healthiest Foods:

“In the life of a plant, sprouting is a moment of great vitality and energy. The seed, after having remained quiet for an often long period of time, becomes more and more active and begins its journey up through the topsoil and into the open air. When it sprouts, a healthy seed activates many different metabolic systems. It converts some of its sugar content into vitamin C, to act as an antioxidant in the new open air environment. It also begins to synthesize a variety of new enzymes… On a gram for gram basis, sprouts are richer in vitamin C than the older, more mature plants they eventually become, because this moment in their lifecyle calls for a high level of vitality. For you to get the benefit of healthy sprouts, the sprouts need to be very fresh, and carefully refrigerated and handled.”

Now I shall quoth lazily from Wikipedia:

“Sprouts are rich in digestible energy, bio available vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, beneficial enzymes and phytochemicals, as these are necessary for a germinating plant to grow.”

What do you grow them in?
You can be as cheap or as fancy pants as you like. Sprouts will grow in a simple glass jar or in a made-for-purpose sprouting vessel, like a tiered plastic one.

Where do I get the seeds and beans from?
I got my first packet of radish seeds from B&Q, a popular hardware shoppe here in merry old Britain. I later Googled "sprouting seeds" and ordered more from Living Food, a Cornwall company. The seeds are organic which is great because according to Wikipedia, "with all seeds, care should be taken that they are intended for sprouting or human consumption rather than sowing. Seeds intended for sowing may be treated with chemical dressings."

Now how does one sprout?

  1. Soak your seeds in a little dish for time period that is correct for your chosen sprout type – it will usually say so on the packet. I just soak mine overnight whatever the type.
  2. Drain the seeds into mesh sieve, rinse and drain again.
  3. Transfer to your clean jar or sprouting container. Spread them out evenly.
  4. Cover the container (with muslin or cling film or a lid) to prevent the sprouts from drying out. (Note: Most instructions I've read have this step but my three-tier sprouter doesn't have a cover. The top layer of sprouts seem to be working okay without being covered)
  5. For the specified number of days, rinse and drain the sprouts every morning and evening to prevent mould forming. I do this by emptying the contents into a fine mesh sieve, rinsing, draining then shaking thoroughly then putting back into the jar/sprouter.
  6. After the specified number of days your sprouts are ready for ‘harvesting’. Rinse the sprouts with fresh water and transfer to a bowl.
  7. Eat immediately for maximum nutrition or store in the fridge for up to a few days.

Note: Let me know if any of the above makes no sense or seems grossly inaccurate, as I woke up at 4am today for no good reason and my brain is mush!

Now here's some photographical evidence.

Soaking
This was my first ever batch of radish seeds, in for the soak

P1010636
After a couple of days they were coming along nicely…

P1010641
… until disaster struck. Mould!
Okay it was an entirely preventable disaster. I kept forgetting to rinse them.

Despite this setback I'd seen it was possible for those little puppies to grow even during the miserable armpit that was February 2010.

Keen to try other varieties, I took the plunge and spent £20 on a three-tier sprouter.

P1010829
Radish, mung beans and snow peas all soaked and ready to go

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Snow peas after about five days

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A mix of mung beans and snow pea sprouts, ready for scoffing

IMG_0588
Alfalfa on a salad. Sure it looks kinda hairy but it tastes great!

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This is a resident Eating Disorder Pigeon, flopped on the needs-a-mow grass having just munched all the Brussels Sprout seedlings in the veggie patch. Moral to the story: Stick to indoor seed sprouting and you'll never know such heartbreak!
 

Two Fit Chicks Episode 09 – Food Glorious Food

For your aural pleasure!Just a quickie to say there's a new episode of Two Fit Chicks and a Microphone today.

Our topic is Food Glorious Food and we are joined by the legend that is nutritionist Kathryn Elliott of Limes and Lycopene. There's talk of Vitamin D, whey protein, tutus and one-star reviews.

This one was a real cack to record and edit so hope you enjoy! I only wish I could pissfart around with silly sound effects in Garageband all day instead of working in the real world.

» Check out Episode 9 over at the Two Fit Chicks website

Friday Link Feast #5

  • Daily Mile – you might call it a Facebook for exercise. I'm using it more to record workouts than succumbing to the timesuck of yet another social media thingy. Geeks rejoice: it makes a groovy graph! of your weekly activity – it's motivating see those bursts of movement add up.
  • Orangette's Oatmeal Pancakes – I am swoony fan of Molly Wizenburg, least of all because she is a redhead and I feel it is important to support your own kind. I'm trying to introduce a Civilised Sunday Breakfast routine at Crooked House, especially since we have an actual table now! (scored free from a friend who was about to donate it charity!). These pancakes have been the triumph so far. I used less butter and sugar and added blueberries to the batter… yummo. Cold leftovers festooned with almond butter and sliced bananas were also smashing.
  • Matar Paneer – I had a random craving for both green peas and paneer cheese last week and this curry recipe was Google's solution. I cut the oil down to a tablespoon, stir-fried the paneer at the start to give it nice crispy edges, added a tin of tomatoes to bulk it up, and substituted about a quarter cup of ground almonds for the cream and yogurt. Very tasty and super quick.
  • The Thrifty Gardener  – Alison Lewis has only five videos on her YouTube but they charmed my pants off. She tells you how to hunt down snails, repurpose random objects and most helpfully, How To Grow Potatoes In A Dust Bin. Totally going to do that!
  • Dietgirl Facebook page – they call these things Fan Pages but it feels rather pathetic to say BE MY FAN PLZ. So think of it as a place to chat to fellow Dietgirl visitors, ask questions and read mini updates and links when writing a Proper Blog Entry seems far too taxing 🙂

The End of Summer

Have you seen the tomatoes? Do you want to see the tomatoes? Come closer! Let me show you the tomatoes!

I'm hoping that this tomato hysteria means I'll get all the excess exuberance out of my system now, so if I ever become a parent I won't bore folks to death by shoving dozens of blurry photos of my shriveled offspring in their faces. Here it is sleeping. And here it is screaming. And here it is screaming from another angle. Here it is screaming with snot streaming out its nose. Isn't it stunning?

Seriously, the tomatoes are ace. They've turned the greenhouse into the jungle.

Tomato Jungle

I can't believe we grew enough stuff to fill a bowl. I wish you could smell how good this smelled. Also shown: a few kickarse little chillies.

Behold our wonderous bounty

Five months of labour has produced approximately two punnets of cherry tomatoes. It may not be time and cost effective but it's been excellent learning something completely new. And the mind-blowing taste made it all worthwhile. If you think I'm exaggerating just ask Gareth. I think I've mentioned before in the six years I've known him he has only ever used three different phrases to positively describe anything in life: food, holidays, hot chicks, concerts, books, thrilling sporting events, etc:

  1. Pretty good!
  2. Not bad!
  3. Alright!

But when he ate a tomato straight from the vine on the weekend he actually paused in his tracks and said, "Whoa. That is amazing."

!!!

Now summer is most definitely over and things are happening on the farm behind Cow Poo Manor. Namely, the complete destruction of the Cow Poo Pile!

Sunday morning:

Poop scoop

Sunday afternoon:

Poo begone!

Indeed the mound was not just for decoration. They ploughed it all into the fields once the hay had been harvested. Now they've put in something else (gee I'm down with the farmer chat). I spent Tuesday evening watching seagulls chase the tractor.

Giving chase

Sloth and Superfood Salad

I'm home alone this week so I'm relishing the chance to be slovenly. My friends bitch about sloppy man companions but I have the opposite scenario. Dr G, typical engineer, thrives on order and tidiness. Like on Sunday when I sloshed my cup of tea and a tiny wee splash landed on the coaster, the poor fella tsk-tsked and dashed off to the kitchen to fetch a cloth, despite my howl of protest, It's a COASTER! Let it do its JOB! Because there is no way he could sit down and enjoy his cuppa with that disorderly droplet taunting him.

Usually when Dr G goes away I plonk my bag in the hallway when I walk in the door, shed clothes all over the house and take a casual approach to dishwashing and bedmaking then clean up in a frenzy an hour before he returns. I am trying to overcome a long history of sloth which I've written about before but can't find the link… during winter I'd iron just the collar and one sleeve of my school shirts then carefully hang them in the wardrobe, so when The Mothership opened the door for a spot check it'd look like I'd done my chores. You can imagine the pitch and boom of the famous schoolteacher voice when she finally rumbled that one!

Another thing I do when Dr G is away is eat lots of lazy salads. He likes healthy food but kind of gets a haunted Is This It look when it's only green things. Hehe. Last night included green lentils, feta and cherry tomatoes but I totally overdid the dijon mustard in the dressing. I couldn't stop snorting as I watched Scotland's Andy Murray go to five sets Wimbledon.

Tonight I made Leon's Superfood Salad which I'd had on my To Cook list for two years. The main ingredients: quinoa, broccoli, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, mint, parsley, peas, sunflower seeds and avocado that I neglected to buy so substituted chives which is no substitute really but it was the right colour. Oh and our old friend feta. Then lemon and olive oil dressing to tie the room together. So bloody tasty! Even better than the one I ate at the Leon in Carnaby Street years ago, no doubt coz I was about 300% less stingy with the feta.

Leon-superfood-salad
Serve with a glass of water
and an idiot-filled episode of Property Snakes And Ladders

Hoping to get back to some regular witterings; everything's been a little crazy and busy. Hope you guys are doing well out there?!

Freshly Baked

This weekend at Cow Poo Manor: a fresh delivery…

Fresh-manure 

… accompanied by a strong breeze which wafted right through our kitchen window. It was just the ticket for a hangover.

(ETA: The Pile is about 300 metres from the house – this was the first time I'd ever caught a whiff!)

I read an interview with Matt Lucas of Little Britain fame where he said, "If I never drank alcohol again I wouldn’t be in the least bothered… You could be spending your money on crisps, couldn’t you?"

I feel exactly the same about booze. And yet I ended up quietly rat-arsed on vodka when I met the lovely former House of Sport colleagues on Friday night (if any of you are out there, HELLO! It was rockin to see you). I got home just as Gareth arrived back from a thrash metal gig. He said he was hungry so I said, "I KNOW, chips and curry sauce!"

Next thing it's 2AM and we're watching Twenty20 Cricket highlights and I'm waxing lyrical about how good chips and curry sauce and fried rice are together; how I was a fool to mock Gareth for the combination all those years ago; how the nubbly texture of the rice balanced the slop of the sauce; how it was oh so wrong but somehow right… this is why I don't drink very often; it always leads to trouble.

Then Saturday 1PM; finally functional enough to make some vegetarian sausage rolls…

Sausage-rolls
Whoops, conjoined.

Tastes amazingly sausage-like but no animal parts here whatsoever… just nuts, oats, herbs, breadcrumbs, etc – recipe here at Green Gourmet Giraffe. Best sausage roll ever! Aside from Cornucopia Bakery in Braddon, Australian Capital Territory, OZ.

Next up: stumbling around garden, giddy at first sign of actual tomatoes.

Tomato
Currently the size of your pinky fingernail!

Also a sudden glut of roses out front that we have no idea how to look after, in the most daggy coral colour that reminds me of old ladies I have known. 

Rose 

Then we headed off to Carnoustie to see more good friends and their herd of children and dog. Went for a walk and got chased by frothing German Shepherds. Then curry – proper; not the drunken chip kind. Then almost falling asleep into a glass of wine.

Today, a kayaking party at the lake for two of the kids' birthday. I didn't partake because I cannot kayak for shit. I know you have to do it more than once to improve but I choose not to improve with ten eight-year-olds as witnesses!

Then we had a BBQ. Then the kidlets toasted marshmallows and when they ran out of marshmallows they just toasted anything they could find. So here we have a delightful fusion on a stick: strawberry, cherry tomato, cocktail pork sausage and a Terry's Chocolate Orange segment.

Kebab

Now salad and leftover snag roll then BED. Hope you all had a good weekend!

Salad Days

Less than four weeks ago these little green whippernsnappers were floppy and uninspired. And planted really crookedly by some flaming amateur.

Start

Despite their snug quarters and my long history of killing plants, they're actually doing pretty well now!

Progress 

Check-me-out

So are the herbs, despite repeated attacks.

Snack

The rocket plants were reduced to shreds by the same boofheaded creature but after a week in the greenhouse ICU, they were back from the brink!

Rocket

NB: Rocket means arugula in the American language. Rocket is also a Scots word for a crazy person. Try it on your friends today, ya mad rockets!

The greenhouse also features a random pile o bubble wrap and this stunning portrait of Urquhart Castle.

Art

This flower has nothing to do with our efforts, it just appeared on Friday. It's a biggun. Does anyone know what it is?

Flower

Today I finally chopped down some salad. That is once I'd removed the stray feathers and dodged the leaves anointed with pheasant crap. But there was plenty of goodness left. Oh YEAH… it was tasty! And the rocket was the most peppery and delicious I'd ever eaten. Much better than paying 99p for a withered bag of supermarket stuff. I go through about three bags of various salad leaves a week so this is GREEN GOLD, baby!

Salad

Six in Scotland

Six years ago today I left Australia for sunny Scotland!

Leading up to our depature I grumbled, "If one more person tells me how they gained so much weight while living overseas, I will punch them in the face. If I'm to believe what I'm told, it rains pure beer in Edinburgh and the streets are paved with lard."

Well I can now say with certainty that you can lose and gain weight on any side of the world you fancy; lard is not discriminating! I've stacked it on Scotland and taken it back off. I've lost weight in Oz then gained 6 kilos on my three week visit in 2005. You can do it anywhere if you put your mind to it!

For all the horror stories and sterotypes about the Scottish diet and lifestyle, in many ways I'm a healthier person than when I left Oz six years ago. I've not had a car for six years so walking everywhere has boosted my fitness. The weather has made me more adventurous too. I'd never have tried hill walking or canoeing back home since I fry to a crisp at the first hint of sunshine. I used to slather myself with SPF50 just to peg my washing on the line! So I'd never have attempted anything like the Moonwalk marathon walk – I bitched up a storm during the five hour 20-mile training walk on a Scottish spring day so can you imagine the bag of WHINE I would have been in Australia? I'm a wimp with a wan complexion so the Scottish climate suits me well.

The downsides are mostly dietary. I didn't drink tea before I met Gareth. There's nothing wrong with tea in itself – just all the goodies that go with it! Six years ago biscuits (cookies) were barely on my radar but now I know the pleasures of a good custard cream or Digestive and I am in recovery for my HobNob addiction.

I also was not a cheese person back in Oz, then Gareth got me hooked on delicious bitey mature cheddar. I also would have run screaming from a hot bag of shrivelled chips after a boozy night out or the carb-on-carb wickedness of a chip butty but that is normal to me now.

Hmmm. Hopefully the good and bad points balance each other alright 🙂

Right now I'm at the airport about to fly to the grand kingdom of Australia to visit the family after 3.5 long years away, woohoo! I am determined not to stack on the lard like the last visit. Oh dear. My mantra is: Violent Crumble bars are not a breakfast food! By the way, there's no cut and paste on this weird terminal so I can't link to anything in the entry so sorry it's all linkless and a wee bit random!

Better scoot. Hope to update while in Oz. Take care, dear comrades! Hope you are well!