Market Matters- Pea Tendrils Portend The Spring

curly pea tendrils on kitchen counterSpring. Spring. Spring, spring, spring!

It’s almost here! You can feel it. It’s not just the change in the weather. We have been having spring-like weather off and on for weeks. 

I can tell it’s nearly here by the changes I am seeing at the Hollywood Farmers Market. I saw the very first, super fat, really luscious looking asparagus spears today. I saw spring onions and ramps. I tasted some delicious baby celery.

I was hoping to find fresh green garlic. But those (like morels and favas) are still a week or more away. But I am getting excited knowing that, like spring, they will soon be here.

Another sure sign of “pre-spring“is pea tendrils. Soon they will mature and burst forth with lovely pea filled pods. But this week the pre-cursor is here in the form of tendrils.

I picked up some curly snow pea tendrils for this week’s Market Matters. A more delightful vegetable is hard to imagine. They have such cheery little personalities too. I swear I could hear them singing in my bag all the way home (heigh-ho heigh-ho, it’s home from work we go)…

pea tendrils close upAs my mind drifts off towards spring. I am reminded that spring planting is upon us too. I am not one of the lucky few with a vegetable garden worthy of my appetite. I just do not get enough sun in my city garden to make the harvest worth the effort. Besides my squirrels are perfectly happy on a diet of birdseed and orchid blossoms. No need to provide them with fresh arugula too.

But I am going to do a couple of pots of tomatoes. Even the city bound food lover deserves homegrown tomatoes. 

Which reminds me. My friend Scott Daigre at Tomatomania is going to be doing some guest blogging here. He is a world-class tomato expert. And SippitySup seems like the perfect place to spread the word. He can help you prepare, and choose and plant and harvest the very best tomatoes imaginable. 

seasmae and chili Thai dressingHe’s going to pass along his knowledge. For free! Right here!

He runs the “The World’s Largest Tomato Seedling Sale”. His selection is incredible. There are so many varieties. Old favorites and crazy stuff you’ve never heard of too. It’s a lot of fun and makes sure that foodies like us have access to the mighty tom!

So stay tuned. There is nothing like free expert advice! If only I could get my plumber to do the same.

But back to my tendrils. They are such sweethearts I do not want to ignore them.

Pea tendrils taste a bit like very mild spinach. But there is that sweet unmistakable note of fresh peas too. They are quite addicting raw and unadorned. But they are here each year so briefly I want to give them a little special treatment.

They are great quickly sauteed with green garlic and morel mushrooms. But as I said green garlic and morels have not shown their smiley faces to me yet this year.

asian saald with pea tendrils or shoots and chiliThey are also very popular in Asian cuisine. So I am going to take them on a journey east.

There is a Thai dish I always order called Sauteed Morning Glories. In this dish morning glory shoots are sauteed in a flavorful garlic and sesame oil then dressed with vinegar, fish sauce and red-hot chili peppers. I love this preparation and it is the inspiration behind my Pea Tendril Salad with a Warm Sesame and Red Chili Dressing.

But changes need to be made. 

First, I think the delicate sweet pea flavored nuances will be lost to a bully like garlic. So I am nixing the garlic. Bu-bye!

Second, I can’t bring myself to saute my little buddies. I just don’t want to harm them in any way. They do not deserve that kind of treatment. Besides I think I can get the experience of cooked greens with out actually “cooking” these guys.

I am going to accomplish this with hot fried shallots. When I pour the hot oil and shallots onto the tendrils, the areas that come in contact with the oil will wilt. But the rest of the greens will stay light and delicate. Retaining the best qualities of both the cooked and raw pea shoot tendrils.

I will finish it with a simple and classic combination of sesame oil and rice vinegar with a little fish sauce. This will bring just enough exotic flavor to the recipe to keep the salad from being boring. 

The sliced super hot Thai chili peppers will provide the right sort of authentic heat. Thereby mimicking the best part of the inspirational morning glory recipe.


Greg Henry