Grow Your Own Pea Shoots All Year Round
Did you know you can grow your own pea shoots all year round on your windowsill? They cost almost nothing to grow. Pea shoots entered my consciousness when they were all the rage on Masterchef. I can't remember what year it was that you couldn't get through one week without someone using pea shoots. But they were definitely 'a thing'.
I discovered how easy they were to grow when I went on a one-day workshop with Mark Ridsdill Smith, the founder of Vertical Veg. The workshop focused on growing vegetables in small spaces. We learned lots of great stuff on that workshop but this is the thing that stayed with me the most, because we've grown peashoots virtually non-stop ever since.
If you've never grown them, you may not realise that you don't need to go to a Garden Centre to get the seeds, oh no. A local supermarket, or online, is just fine. This is what you're looking for:
Yes you really are looking for a box of dried marrowfat peas. These will set you back about 50p for a 250g box. 100g of these dried peas will grow into a bazillion pea shoots. You only need a handful each time you grow them. And when you consider that a pack of 'fresh' pea shoots in your average supermarket cost around £2.00 per 100g at the moment, that's quite a deal.
I would never, ever have considered buying marrowfat peas to grow into pea shoots until that workshop. I can remember my dear old Nan serving them up with the Sunday roast in the 70s. Big fat things with a strange texture in your mouth. Me trying to sneak them under the table when she wasn't looking. Even the dog wouldn't touch them. But dear reader: these are just the job for growing pea shoots.
How to grow Pea Shoots from Marrowfat Peas
Take a handful of dried peas, pop them in a bowl. Cover them with tap water, add a bit more (they soak up a LOT of water) and leave them overnight. The next morning they'll have about doubled in size.
Put about 2 inches of soil in a yogurt pot and sow the peas in concentric circles in the pot to make them grow in a nice pattern (or chuck them in randomly if you don't care what they grow like), then sprinkle more soil over to cover them.
Pop the pot on a windowsill. Water sparingly each day with a small watering can with a fine rose. Don't drown them or they'll rot. It depends on the time of year as to how quickly they'll germinate. In the height of summer it can literally be a couple of days before you'll see their little shoots popping up through the soil. In winter, it will take longer. Though if you have a grow light in your kitchen as we do, they'll take no time whenever you plant them.
Within 3 weeks your pot will look like this yogurt pot I grew earlier.
Then all you do is trim off the tops and mix them into your salad leaves. I like sprinkling them on top of dishes, as you would parsley, for a bit of fresh greenery. Or mix them into a stir fry. Or stir them into cooked peas at the very last minute for a bit of crunch and added flavour.
They'll keep growing back so you can re-cut the plants several times. Eventually they'll start getting a bit tough. If it's summer, you can then plant them outside and they'll produce small pea pods. We've had varying degrees of success with this, sometimes the little pods are perfect to pop into salads like mange tout, sometimes they're a bit stringy. If that's the case, let them get a bit bigger and then shell the peas into your salads instead. When you've had enough of them put the whole lot, soil and all, into the wormery or the compost.
Most of the year you can do this outside too. We plant them in guttering along the fence which is ideal because they don't need a lot of depth. We also soak fava beans which grow in exactly the same way, just the leaves look and taste slightly different - those are planted in this guttering image. Again, ideal in salads.
Pea shoots taste wonderful and are so easy to grow. When you buy them in bags, not only are they expensive but a lot of their sweetness has gone. Picking them just before you eat them is another world altogether. So get down the Asda for your marrowfat peas. The box will last ages!