These gourmet salad ingredients are expensive to buy, but here’s how to grow pea shoots quickly and cheaply yourself. First of all, use the cheapest pea seeds – in spite of what some may say, you don’t need to buy some special rare variety of snow pea or anything like that.
The cheapest peas do not come from seed suppliers, so save yourself some money and get a big bag or box of whole dried marrowfat peas from a supermarket or a wholesaler. The only types to avoid are the ones that have already been split. You should be able to get a lot of peas for less than £1 and it’ll be enough keep you in delicious pea shoots for months. Batchelors Bigga dried peas are a reliable brand.
1. How to grow pea shoots outdoors
This is very easy indeed. As you aren’t growing whole plants, just the shoots, you don’t need to provide lots of nutrients or special conditions here. A fairly shallow container with good drainage is all you need. Just fill the container about two-thirds full of compost, water well, then scatter your peas in a single layer over the surface.
Some guides tell you to space them 2cm apart, but from experience I can definitely say that it doesn’t matter if they’re touching each other. So I say pile them in. Now cover your peas with about a 2cm layer of compost, and give it a light sprinkle of water. Then gently water every day and within about 3 weeks or so you should have pea shoots about 12cm tall and ready to pick.
Peas grow much faster in warmer weather, and if it’s too cold outside then they won’t germinate. The good news is that in colder months, particularly when there’s not much else to eat in a kitchen garden, you can also grow pea shoots indoors. I use a slightly different method for this.
2. How to grow pea shoots indoors
If you want to grow pea shoots indoors you can follow the standard outdoors method, but there is a much quicker way that you might prefer. Start by soaking a large handful of dried marrowfat peas in lukewarm / room temperature (not hot) water overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse them well, then soak them for the rest of the day in lukewarm water before draining and rinsing them again.
At this point they will have soaked for about 24 hours, and you should be able to see a tiny pale shoot forming on the side of each pea. If you can’t see tiny shoots, soak them overnight again and follow the next step in the morning.
Next, take your soaked and drained peas and pot them up. I put a mixture of sand and compost in the pots for easy drainage, but plain compost is fine. Fill a pot about three-quarters full, water it, then pile on the peas. Again, make a layer one pea thick and don’t worry if some of them touch or overlap. Sprinkle on a thin layer of compost about 1 cm thick, and gently water again.
You can leave the peas like this on a windowsill and they will grow pea shoots in about 2 weeks, or you can try the following trick. Make the peas grow faster by putting a layer of aluminium foil over the top of them to block out light, and moving the pot somewhere warm, like the top of a fridge or near a radiator, for a couple of days or so. Check daily and keep watered.
Once the shoots begin to poke through the compost, take the foil off the top of the pot and move your pea shoots to a sunny windowsill. This will give you a crop of pea shoots in about 8 to 10 days, which is useful if you want some salad in a hurry.
3. How to grow pea shoots twice
Don’t throw away your pot once you’ve harvested your pea shoots. Whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors, the peas are likely to re-sprout for a second time, giving you another crop. All you need to do is water regularly, and they’ll be back in a few days. The second crop might be a bit smaller, but it involves little or no extra effort to get it.
Don’t forget to try our favourite pea shoot salad recipe!
Are you going to try to grow your own pea shoots this season?