Monday, February 28, 2011

Pea Tendrils... Have you Tried Them?


Have you ever tried a pea tendril?  Until just this weekend, I had never tried one, and I would venture a guess that I am not alone.  Even if you have never even heard of a pea tendril, feel no shame.  When I was quickly browsing the farmer's market, dodging renegade rain droplets, I spotted these and I had to ask the grower, "Hey what are these???"


So what exactly are pea tendrils? 




  
Pea tendrils, also known as pea shoots, are the young leaves, stems, vines, and flowers of a pea plant.  All the parts of the plant are edible.  The type of pea plant is typically either a snow pea or a shelling pea, and the original variety will have an impact on the taste of the tendrils.  The pea tendrils are harvested before pea pods have developed, and depending on the maturity of the plant, there may only be small shoots with leaves or there may be long stems with leaves, flowers, and vines (like the ones I have here).  The different parts of the plant have different textures (also depending on maturity) and the stem in particular can be crunchy and tougher.  


In taste pea tendrils are slightly sweet, with a mild bitter aftertaste, and they have a nutty undertone.  The leaves have a texture similar to spinach, although not as delicate.    
   
I think pea tendrils have an almost magical quality about them; they only appear for a few weeks during the year and it seems the allure of their twirling vines and soft white blooms are capable of ensnaring even the most discerning locavore.  Their season is just at the close of winter, so the appearance of pea tendrils at the farmers market is a sure sign of spring.   


So how should you eat pea tendrils?




The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious RevolutionWell, you might be irked, but rather than give you hard and fast recipes, I am going to tell you about two dishes that I have tried, and share some ideas for a few more.  I have recently been pouring over Alice Waters The Art of Simple Food and I have been using her philosophies of appreciating and using ingredients simply and organically.  Since I especially wanted to value local food, I made both dishes with additional ingredients I had picked up at the farmers market. 


The first dish I made was pea tendrils sauteed with garlic, topped with a cage-free brown egg.  I usually get these beautiful large brown eggs from the farmers market in Del Mar for only $3.75 a dozen which I think is a fantastic price for fresh, local, free-range eggs.  To cook the pea tendrils, I separated out the tougher stems and roughly chopped the remaining portions, and then sauteed them in a little olive oil with minced garlic and salt.  After they were cooked, I fried the egg in the same pan and then topped the greens with the egg, as well as salt and pepper to taste.   




The second dish I made was a pea tendril salad, with sweet Cara Cara orange segments and kalamata olives.  As I mentioned in my last post, citrus is still plentiful here in San Diego, and I am taking full advantage.  For the salad, I first roughly chopped the pea tendrils (removing tougher stems), and then segmented the Cara Cara.  (For a video link and more information on how to segment citrus, check the bottom of one of my oldest posts - Avocado and Red Grapefruit Salad.) I collected the orange juice during segmenting, and combined it with olive oil, minced garlic, champagne vinegar and salt/pepper to make a vinaigrette. The fresh, sweet, and salty all came together by topping the pea tendrils with the orange segments, plus kalamata olives and crumbled goat cheese, and dressing it with the vinaigrette.  This salad would also be fantastic topped with quality Italian tuna. 




A few other ideas for enjoying fresh, young pea tendrils are: 


-As greens for a sandwich
-Stir fried with carrots, baby corn, tofu and teriyaki sauce
-Sauteed and served with a delicate white fish
-Used any other way you might use spinach or mache


If you are lucky enough to spot pea tendrils at your local farmers market or Whole Foods, I would recommend snatching them up before it is too late.  At $1 a bunch, you can't beat the price and I would always advocate eating seasonally as well as being open to new culinary experiences! 


So, how will you eat your pea tendrils?  Please share any other ideas you have! 



This just in: saw a new post from White on Rice Couple that uses whole fresh shelling peas to for plump pea dumplings.  Not exactly a recipe where you could sub pea tendrils, but still a great way to use spring's bounty of freshness.  Check it out if you love peas! 
   

43 comments:

  1. My pea plants are just starting to grow, but I can't wait until they are a little bigger and I can harvest them for a salad. Last year I had them at a wine & food festival with grilled lamb on top and it was wonderful.

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  2. One of my favorite greens, such intense yet clean flavor.

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  3. No I have not tried them but now they are on my list! They loos so elegant. Love the way you used them.

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  4. Your pictures are fabulous. Did you attend the shooutout with White on Rice? What a difference in the photos....wow! When I saw the pictures of the pea tendrils (which I'd never heard of as well), it reminded me of Jack and the Beanstalk!

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  5. It's funny. I haven't heard of pea tendrils but only knew them as pea shoots! The only time I've had them was in a posh restaurant in Paris as a decoration but you've enlightened me with your ideas. Beautiful photos!

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  6. Im with you,
    ive never even heard of pea tendrils until now.
    but now it seems that im craving for something that ive never even tried.. haha! odd.

    but anything sauteed in garlic is a topper on my faves. (:

    & your pictures are so bright and amazing!
    i was wondering what camera/lense you use, and how you manage to save your photos..
    mine always seem to lose its color when i post on the internet such as foodgawker, and its really frustrating because they ARE beautiful pictures.
    sooo if you could help me out with a few tips, you`d be making my blogging experience 100 times more enjoyable~ (:

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  7. When we go out and they have pea tendrils on the menu, E and I always get it. Cooked as well as these, they're irresistible. Love the idea of the egg on top!

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  8. I am going to look for these this spring. They are not doubt beautiful to photograph and they look delicious.

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  9. I love sweet peas (the flowers which are pretty - never ate them though), but have never tried pea tendrils. That is an interesting veggie. Perfect with fried eggs!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  10. What gorgeous photos...from the eggs to the swirling tendrils! I'd love to try your salad...and have my first taste of pea tendrils :)

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  11. Wow Amanda, these photos are great. You have a much better farmers market than we do. Love greens of all sorts, your salad has me hungry. I've never seen these before, thanks for sharing them. Hope you have a great week.
    -Gina-

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  12. The color of the orange is vibrant and beautiful! Great post about pea tendrils, for I've never heard of them until today.

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  13. Great to learn about pea tendrils, love both of your preparations, sauteed with the egg and the salad, excellent!

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  14. The first time I had pea tendrils it was an afterthought. We had planted them as part of a cover crop in one of our fields... a mixture of peas, vetch, bell beans and oats in the Fall and in the Spring the peas started to vine, there was still not much to eat in the garden so I went out to the field and harvested a small basket of pea tips. We ate them as a salad with olive oil, sea salt and balsamic vinegar.
    They vanished in a flash.

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  15. I have grown peas for years and never even thought to try the tendrils. It's still too early for them here but this year I will try them. And I think your dishes look so simple but elegant and tasty!

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  16. I've never had them but would sooo totally use them on my lunch-time wrap:)

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  17. They do look wonderful! What a find. I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for them this summer. (I'd hate to tell you how much I pay for farm eggs here; guess that's a fair swap for my not finding pea tendrils!)

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  18. I've never heard of these and now I want to go and find some so I can try all your yummy suggestions!

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  19. I love discovering new (to me) foods at the farmers market. I've never had pea tendrils but I especially love the first preparation. Healthy, wholesome, and delicious!

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  20. Was just reading something last night about pea tendrils and have it on the list for the market this weekend. Both of your dishes look great.

    Almost went to the DM market this past weekend. I used to live there and went every Sat.

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  21. Oh I adore pea greens...I have used them is salads and sautés on several occasions, they are a favorite market find. These are both delightful recipes, just love them :)

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  22. you're right, I've never heard of these little guys. they sure are cute though! your salad idea looks delicious! saving this to my online cookbook, http://cookmarked.com

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  23. Yes I have heard of these and love them! I've been eating mine mainly in salads, never thought to cook them.

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  24. Lovely post and beautiful photos!

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  25. Have not had them since I was a child, hope I find some at the market, great shots-I want them with the egg right now. Thanks for the great ideas.

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  26. You can usually find these in your local Chinatown (doe-meow in Mandarin or dao-myu in Cantonese) grocer or restaurant. A typical restaurant preparation would sauteed in oil and garlic - very similar to Ms. Waters' (albeit without the egg).

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  27. I am a HUGE fan of pea shoots and eat them both raw and cooked. Raw, I usually toss them with some balsamic and lemon, salt and pepper. Cooked, I sauteed them super lightly and serve with crispy tofu. Mmmmmmmmmmm :D

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  28. I need to get that Alice Waters book! I had never thought to use pea tendrils before, Amanda, these recipes are gorgeous. Simple and fresh, my kind of cooking! Thank you!!

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  29. I have had pea tendrils, aren't they great? You are right - there is something magical and sort of fairytale-like about them. Both your versions look delicious, but I ALWAYS go for anything with a fried egg on it!!

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  30. I have decided. I am moving into your house. So that I can have food like all of the above.

    Hope you don't mind :)

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  31. Hi Amanda - beautiful post! You are reminding me of a dish we made from Suzanne Goin's book: osso buco, pea shoots and saffron risotto - need to make that again soon.
    LL
    http://www.tastewiththeeyes.com/2009/09/osso-buco-saffron-risotto-peas-snow-pea-shoots/

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  32. Yumm, these look amazing! What great details and recipes-thanks!

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  33. I was searching pea shoots online when I came across your beautiful post. Long time no see, Amanda. Your photos are absolutely lovely. Just lovely.

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  34. Hi Jun! I agree, long time no see! Thanks for the compliments on my photos, coming from you that is high praise. :)

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  35. I'm freezing some for stews and soups. And, I agree they'd be great for lamb accompaniment -- as they have a sweetness like the peas themselves.
    I'll be using even the thicker, stronger stems in the soups and stews since they'll be boiled and simmered for a couple of hours.
    Love the sauteeing lightly for the tendrils and the raw for salads! THANKS.
    This is my first fall garden attempt and the pea plants got pulled out of the raised bed when weather snows and freezing temps and rains came our way. So, they can be raised if planted like I did on a very hot day on August 15th!

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  36. Rah J: Glad you are trying these out, and even more happy to see you are growing your own - how exciting!

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  37. We got pea tendrils in our Abundant Harvest Organics box this week. My friend Christy cooked your recipe for us for lunch today (pea tendrils sauteed with garlic). It was so good, I'm going to make it for dinner! And, am going to share it on my blog, in hopes that other AHO subscribers will find a use for this delicious ingredient! (Of course I will credit you as the author of the recipe.) :)

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