Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Pea Shoots

I’ve been doing plenty of very sensible and grown-up sowing recently in my mini greenhouse – lettuce, beetroot, spinach and more, all to be planted out at the allotment as soon as they are big and ugly enough – but I have also been having a little fun with pea shoots.

I ran my first supper club at the weekend. For those of you not au fait, this is like opening a little home restaurant for the night: you put out word, people book and come along and sit in your kitchen or dining room, and they eat whatever food you serve them. At the end of the night they leave a donation, if you’re lucky (I think you’d have to put on a pretty poor show for people not to leave the donation, to be fair. Supper club attendees are generally good sorts fairly determined to have a good time).

What you dont want to do is just plonk down a bog standard meal. You want to sprinkle a little magic. I tried to put in a few special touches, and my favourite by far were the pea shoot shot glasses. If you’ve never grown pea shoots this is a great moment for it. Every part of a pea plant is edible, and when they are just beyond seedling stage the shoots are tender and sweet and utterly pea flavoured. It’s like someone took essence of pea and fashioned it into sweet, delicately curling little tendrils and small, crunchy oblong leaves.  Once they have grown they can be grazed, much like a cut-and-come-again salad leaf, and will keep on sending out new, sweet little tendrils, leaves and stems. They will do this several times before they start to lose their tenderness and then they will need replacing, so you need to look ahead by a week or two and re-sow before they’re exhausted if you want a constant supply.

So two weeks ago I soaked a load of peas overnight, and then sowed them for this meal. I sowed a sensible little seed tray’s worth first, as a back up, and then started casting around the kitchen. First I filled a glass jelly mould with compost and sowed thickly onto the surface (covering lightly with compost) and then my eyes lit upon my shot glasses. How lovely would it be to give everyone their own, individual shot glass full of shoots to pick and sprinkle at will? I thought. Very lovely indeed, came the answer. So I tried it and it worked. I placed all of them on the heated mat in the mini-greenhouse to start them off, and then moved them up to the top shelf for light once they had germinated. It is kind of integral to a shot glass’s design that it has no drainage holes in the bottom, so I had to be a little careful with watering at first, but once they were off they gulped up every drop of water I threw at them. They wouldn’t put up with such cramped, unfavourable conditions long term, but as a quick gimmick it worked a treat. They sat prettily on the table, their white roots glowing through the sides of the glass, and were grazed by my happy diners, every one of whom left the suggested donation at the end of the night.