Growing Pea Sprouts for Chinese Food
Pea sprouts, a.k.a. pea shoots, pea greens, or pea tips, are an essential element of Chinese food. Perk up your lunches and suppers with fresh pea sprouts that you grow in your own garden. The nice thing about growing pea sprouts is that even if you are a poor gardener and have failed growing mature pea plants, you will succeed with ease at growing pea sprouts. Within 2-3 weeks your job will be done. You will be eating fresh, crisp pea sprouts and boasting to your friends about your crop.
Of course, you will need to beg, borrow, or steal some dry pea seeds to get started. To make things super simple, buy dried peas from the market. They will work fine. About 500 seeds will run you less than $1. If you want something very special, buy some snow peas and use their seeds instead. It may be a bit more expensive, but they will offer a unique flavor to add to any dish. Be sure to plant more seeds, rather than less. You will eat plenty of sprouts in no time at all. It takes many seeds to satisfy the palette when they taste so good.
Begin by soaking the seeds for 3-4 hours in water. While they are soaking, choose some pots that are deep enough for roots, at least 4 inches. Rinse the pots, and then sprinkle a little baking soda in them. Wet your sponge and scrub. Rinse again at least 3 times.
Punch many small holes in the bottoms for water drainage, since good draining soil is ideal for pea sprouts. Now you can add either compost or soil, but make sure the result is a sandy, well draining soil. You would do best to mix a little compost in with the sandy soil to contribute rich nutrients. Pack the pea seeds in as densely as you like. There is no worry here about spacing the plants, because you will harvest them too early for this to be a concern.
When pea sprouts grow in warmer weather they turn out woodier and less tender than if grown in cooler temperatures. This means you can grow them indoors during the winter. However, remember this one point: try not to overwater them.
One very sober warning is that if you grow your tender, delicious pea sprouts outside you will be feeding the neighborhood wildlife. You might find it more productive to grow these in a window indoors or a small greenhouse.
After merely a day, you will see roots pop out and then the plants will begin to grow small shoots. Within only 2-3 weeks, your sprouts will be perfect for harvesting. Do not wait too long or you will find too many tendrils on your plants that will turn out to be too tough to eat. Harvesting at the 2-3 week mark will yield tender tendrils though. You can clip them off near the soil and grow a second crop. They may be smaller than the first, but they will taste as sweet and tender. You can store the pea sprouts in a plastic bag in the fridge for as long as a week and they will maintain much of their great flavor. However, if you want crisp pea sprouts you should use them with 24-48 hours from the time you have harvested them.
Cooking these beauties up is simple. Fry them in oil with a lot of garlic, the way pea sprouts are cooked in traditional Chinese food.