About Pea Shoots
Pea shoots are the young, tender vine tips of green or garden peas (Pisum sativum L.) (Muehlbauer, and Tullu 1997; Kay 1979). This specialty vegetable crop is eaten fresh in salads, lightly steamed or sautéed in stir-fries, or served as an attractive edible garnish often placed on top of a hot main course just before serving. Pea shoots are generally 2–6 inches long and include 2 to 4 pairs of leaves and immature tendrils; they may also include small flower buds or blossoms. They have a mild “pea pod” flavor and crisp, light texture. Pea shoots are also relatively high in protein compared to other common edible greens (Japan Science and Technology Corporation 2015). Hmong, an Asian ethnic group, introduced the use of pea shoots throughout China, Japan, and Southeast Asia (Larkcom 2008). Hmong farmers also introduced pea shoots to farmers markets in western Washington (Figure 1). Pea shoots are now routinely found in high-end restaurants. Also, because peas are legumes capable of fixing their own nitrogen, pea shoot production gives growers an opportunity to cut fertilizer costs and improve soil nitrogen fertility to benefit subsequent crops. This guide provides growers with basic production information for pea shoots in the Pacific Northwest.
Peas grow best in cool weather and should be planted in early spring or late summer. The ideal mean temperature for growth is 55°F–65°F (13°C–18°C), although this may be somewhat cultivar dependent. Young pea plants can withstand a little frost, though frost may damage the flowers and pods.
The best soils for peas are silt loams, sandy loams, or clay loams. Peas generally tolerate both sandy and heavy clay soils; however, providing proper drainage is critical as peas will not thrive in waterlogged conditions. Peas grown in wet soils develop a shallow root system, and when the soil dries the root system will be insufficient to sustain plant growth. Root rot is also a predominant disease in cool, wet soils, and a major problem in early season peas (Hemphill 2010). Peas are very sensitive to soil compaction, so it is best to avoid or reduce cultivation when soils are wet. Some pea shoots are grown in potting media and/or quasi hydroponic systems, usually in greenhouses.
Soil Testing and Nutrient Applications
Optimum soil fertility is essential for high yields and to produce top-quality pea shoots. In the early fall of the year preceding pea planting, or in the spring just prior to planting, conduct a soil test to determine lime and fertilizer requirements. See Additional Resources section for a detailed description of soil testing and soil nutrition.
Peas are fairly sensitive to soil acidity and the optimum soil pH range for pea production is 6.0 to 7.0.