14 May 2017

Salad Challenge: Mushy Peas

~ Successful pea shoots (for growing on) in previous years ~


I have to confess to my first major fail of the season. As part of my all year round salad bar, I thought I'd grow some pea shoots as they're reputed to be quick and incredibly easy to grow.

The first time I became aware of pea shoots was while watching Alys Fowler rave about them in her 2012 series 'The Edible Garden'. As I recall, she made pea shoot cocktails out of her harvest.  I remember thinking "Eeeuww, really?" (These days I'd probably think it was delicious.)  A bit of googling reveals that the Pea-tini cocktail (as it was) is the brainchild of chef Mark Hix who created it during a campaign to promote pea shoots to diners. At that time, I don't remember pea shoots being very mainstream as a salad leaf but I've read that they were available in M+S and Sainsbury's (big UK supermarkets) in 2008. How far have we come since then! These days they're much more readily available - but, as with all salad leaves, why not grow your own and avoid eating a cocktail of chemicals? Supermarket salads are washed with chemicals to prolong the shelf life of the leaves.

My opinion of pea shoots was changed for the better a couple of years ago when the meal served for supper at a friend's house was pea shoots with pulled ham hock, peas, watercress and a dressing. There might have been mint in there as well; what was memorable was it's tastiness.  But still I didn't grow pea shoots as a salad leaf, even though I grew peas in the veg patch.

Striving for a full year of salad leaves, I hope to change all that but I'm having to start again.  As far as I can tell, pea shoots can be grown from any pea seeds whether they're the remnants of last year's packets or supermarket dried peas.  I had some leftover seeds so filled a box with compost, pushed pea seeds into the compost and watered them.  A week later the lettuce leaves that I'd sown had all germinated but there was a complete lack of action from the pea seeds.  I gave them a few more days. Nothing. So I poked around a bit which was when I discovered ... mushy peas. There were no signs of germination, just globules of pale mush.

I've now started again but this time using supermarket dried marrowfat peas and watering slightly less. And there will be NO poking around as I've since learned that pea shoots can take a bit longer to germinate. Let's see how that goes.

What I'd like to know, though, from anyone that has successfully grown pea shoots, did I do anything wrong?  Do the pea seeds need less watering; are they prone to going mushy; has anyone else found that they've had mushy peas rather than pea shoots?  A couple of things that might be to blame is perhaps I didn't sow the seeds deep enough; I gave them a light covering of soil rather than pushing them down about an inch. Also, I used multi-purpose compost rather than lighter seed compost and watered them in well; perhaps that was it?  If there's any light to be shed on this mystery, please do tell.

~ Mushy pea seeds on the left after a bit of poking around.  Definitely not a thing of beauty. ~



A little bit about my 52 week challenge
I'm sowing a range of salad leaves into small window boxes (above photo). Some of these seedlings will be pricked out to be grown into bigger plants and the rest left for cut and come again leaves on my balcony.

First salad leaves were sown on 30th April.
Salad Rocket appeared within a couple of days (it's not called 'Rocket' for nothing!);
Komatsuna was up by day 3 after sowing;
Mr Fothergill's mixed leaves appeared on day 4 after sowing.
Lollo Rosso leaves had poor germination rates but were from an older packet.

Second sowing on 14th May.
Lamb's Lettuce
Viola's (edible flowers)
Nasturtium
Drunken Woman Lettuce
Mizuna


14 comments:

  1. I've grown pea shoots in the past and there was no mystery. I just grew as I would for ordinary peas, the difference being that they are harvested as shoots. I wonder whether something nibbled the tiny growing tip as it emerged from the shell and before it saw daylight.

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    1. Gosh, I hope not as the pea seeds were left to grow on the windowsill indoors! It's a good thought but having read through comments, I'm now thinking that the seeds may have rotted. They were sown in a moisture retaining compost that I watered. Classic mistake.

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  2. Hi, I have just grown pea shoots for the first time. I just pushed them down into the soil but left the top of the pea seed uncovered. They germinated fine, even though the peas were a few years old!

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    1. I wonder if I overcomplicated the process. I've certainly had no problems in the past when growing peas for plants; fingers crossed that my second batch works.

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  3. It sounds like you were just unlucky. A word of warning about the right peas for pea shoots though - not all peas are created equal, and some make better pea shoots than others. I've tried supermarket marrowfat peas and they weren't great, not as tender and they had masses of tendrils on them, even when they were small. I always try and use Sugar Ann, which are brilliant for shoots and also for sugar snaps. If I'm growing them for shoots I put an inch of soil in a tray, cover it thickly with peas (spaced about 1-2cm apart) and cover that lightly with soil. Then I put them on the kitchen window sill - warm, light and snail free. Hope your next batch do better! This year I lost almost all of two outside rows of Sugar Ann (being grown for sugar snaps). And lots of runner beans. Not sure if they rotted or got eaten. Maybe the cold weather didn't help. The remaining six runner beans that I put in the greenhouse did brilliantly. I need to consider sowing inside for all of them next year I think. I ended up taking a whole load of my inside pea shoot peas and planting them out in the sugar snap row in all the spaces. CJ xx

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    1. Thanks for the advice, CJ. I've grown Sugar Ann for snaps before now and they're delicious. The mushy pea shoots were from Kelvedon Wonder seeds as I had a large pack of those. I've now resown with supermarket peas; so far, one (but only one) has popped up so I can't yet tell what they taste like. I think cold and wet affected the mushy pea shoots. Hopefully now the windowsills are warmer, I have a chance of adding pea shoots to the challenge. I always start my peas for plants off inside in modules so that mice don't nibble the seeds after they've been sown outside. Thank goodness you had some pea shoots to replace the lost plants! xx

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  4. I saw the title and assumed you were writing about my very favourite food. I had believed, until I read this post, that I had yet to meet a mushy pea I didn't love. This post has changed everything. Even the application of liberal quantities of mint sauce will not save these peas.

    I grow pea shoots - I just plant them in half trays in peat-free compost and I have never had any problems with them. I start them under cover (usually in my office) and I am an under-waterer, because I don't tend to throw too much water around near my desk.

    Good luck with the next batch!

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    1. I absolutely agree - these peas are beyond redemption! Underwatering is the way to go for the next batch; I might have overwatered the first batch by mistake - who knows? There are so many seedlings on the windowsills that it's easy to get confused. Definitely time to start planting out this weekend if we get some good weather!

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  5. I tend to pre-germinate pea seeds when I'm sowing for peashoots. I soak them over night, then drain them and rinse them with fresh water twice a day until the first roots start to appear. Then it's time to sow them :)

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    1. Love this tip, Emma - thank you! I'm going to do it this way from now on - it will take all the mystery out of the process.

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  6. I have never grown peas for pea shoots, but normally I plant out the pea seeds in the veggie patch and ignore them, they always grow well,unless of course the slugs get them. Good luck with the second batch.xxx

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    1. Thanks, Dina. If it's not one thing, it's another - amazing that we ever get anything to grow! It's raining tomorrow (apparently) so I might try a few seeds outdoors as well when the weather eases. xx

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  7. I work as a volunteer gardener in a kitchen garden. The previous head gardener told me a few years ago now that peas and sweet peas should not be watered until a shoot appears. After that they need lots of water. Must say I don't always follow this advice, generally watering when I plant and not again until a shoot appears. Good luck!

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    1. Hmmm, interesting ... because of all the second round of peas sown, only one has germinated and that's right on the edge of the container where there may have been less watering. That shoot is now a couple of inches high so I'm fairly certain that the others aren't going to sprout now. Looks like Round 3 is on the cards if I want pea shoot salads!! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Caro x

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