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In the Garden

Double your crop by planting peas extra close together, cutting some for the lovely little shoots and letting the others mature to produce peas in the spring.

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  Sanna Delmonico
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Napa, CA 94581
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Growing Pea Shoots

My vegetable garden is a jumble. I plant a lot in very little space, so there are lettuces tucked under tomato plants, leeks randomly slipped under beans and basil stuck in any bare patch of dirt. I also encourage volunteers, plants that grow from seeds left behind. This is because I am frugal and a sucker for anything small and adorable: puppies, babies, seedlings. We are now enjoying Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes even though we didn't plant them, at least not this year. So it should not be a surprise that after taking out this spring's peas and putting in seedlings of cucumbers, volunteer pea plants started coming up in great numbers in June, and I couldn't bring myself to pull them up.

 

Pea Shoots in a Pot
That's when I had my “aha!” moment, remembering that pea shoots, simply seedlings of pea plants, are used in Southeast Asian cooking and are “hot” at fancy restaurants here and no doubt elsewhere. So I started cutting my cute, little curly volunteers and mixing them with lettuce in salads, and adding them to stir-fried dishes just before serving. They were sweet, crunchy, and delicious. By the time I used up the volunteers, I was already hooked, and grew more pea shoots in a pot, which I am just now, after this rambling introduction, getting around to suggesting that you do, too. This is a nice project for children in the early fall, when new growth is especially rare and beautiful.

Pick a wide pot and fill it nearly full with good potting soil. Any snap pea, snow pea or shelling pea seeds will do. Ignore the spacing instructions on the seed packet and scatter seeds on the soil thickly - I used two 20 gm seed packets for a 14” pot. Cover with another inch of potting soil and water thoroughly. Pea shoots sprout in a week or ten days and you can begin cutting them, or better yet sending the kids out with the scissors, when they are three or four inches long. They grow so fast that I call pea shoots instant gratification gardening.

Peas for the Pods
Of course, peas are worth growing for the actual peas as well. Kids love them and they take up little garden space because they can be grown up a trellis or fence. In fairly mild climates like ours, plant peas in the fall so they grow some before resting for the winter. When the first hint of spring warms them, they take off quickly and you have a huge crop very early. Double your crop by planting peas extra close together, cutting some for the lovely little shoots and letting the others mature to produce peas in the spring.

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