Key Ingredient


Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Ingredient of the week

Key ingredient: pea shoots

You may have come across pea shoots at a farmer's market or in Chinatown. They are very fragile greens with curly tendrils winding throughout the bunches. Don't mistake them for bittermelon greens, which are sometimes sold close by.

The basics: Pea shoots are the young leaves and tendrils of pea plants. The tender shoots are typically harvested from the snow pea plant, although they can also come from most garden pea varieties.

Pea shoots have long been used in Chinese cooking and are a spring and early summer delicacy. The shoots have only recently been introduced to the West and are still not readily found in supermarkets.

Because they are so delicate, they are best purchased soon after they are harvested. Pea shoots have a distinct, light, pea flavor with a hint of sweetness. They are also chock-full of nutrients, with a good amount of vitamin C and folate.

Selecting: Choose shoots that are young and tender-looking, with fresh green leaves. Pea shoots are generally sold in bunches that may look like a lot, but like spinach they cook down by half.

Storing: Pea shoots should be eaten the day they are purchased. The shoots will wilt rapidly. They can be stored covered with a paper towel in the refrigerator for a day or two.

Use: Pea shoots can be enjoyed raw or lightly cooked. Remove any stems that look tough or woody. Rinse shoots and let dry on paper towels or in a salad spinner. The shoots can then be roughly chopped and tossed in salads or served in a mound with some lemon juice and soy sauce. Add pea shoots to soups near the end of cooking or quickly stir-fry them with garlic and ginger for a tasty side dish.

Where to buy: Pea shoots can be found year-round but spring and early summer are peak months. Shoots are available at farmers' markets, Asian markets or Chinatown and are priced at $2.99 to $3.99 a bunch.

Food Stuffs: Morsels

Eleanor Nakama-Mitsunaga is
a free-lance food writer. Contact her
online through

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