How to Find, Choose, & Use
Pea sprouts - young, tender pea microgreens grown from a seed.
Pea tips (and snow pea pods) - tender new-growth leaves, stems, & tendrils from pea plants.
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What Are They?
Pea Tips are the tender young leaves & stems from the ends of snow pea branches.
Pea Sprouts are a sprout or microgreen composed of the whole young plant (including stalk and leaves) grown from newly sprouted peas.
Available YEAR-ROUND (especially the sprouts), but best in cool seasons (particular late winter/early spring).
Green/Sweet/Bitter; generally mild with a slight mustard-green flavour
English: Pea shoots, pea greens, pea leaves, pea tendrils
Chinese: 豌豆芽 – wāndòu yá (sprouts), 豌豆苗 – wāndòu miáo (sprouts or tips) (Mandarin)
Pea Tip & Pea Shoot FAQs
Are pea tips and pea sprouts the same?
No, but they can be used in similar ways. Pea tips are the tender young leaves and stems growing at the ends of the branches of more mature pea plants. Pea shoots are sprouts or microgreens (i.e. very young plants in their entirety) grown from pea seeds and harvested when a 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) long.
Are pea sprouts and pea shoots the same?
It depends on how 'pea shoot' is being use. The term is a bit of a confusing, and seems to be applied a little haphazardly to both foods discussed here. Fortunately it's easy to tell which one you're really dealing with based on appearance. If you're looking at a young, tender green plant with a straight stem and two small leaves, it's a pea sprout. If it's a small leafy bundle on a relatively thick stem that's been clipped off a larger plant, it's a pea tip. Both get called pea shoots, though I think the term is used a little more often to describe pea sprouts.
Can you eat pea flowers?
Yes - any flowers that might show up in your pea tips are edible. They make a nice addition to salads, etc. If you're harvesting your own pea tips and flowers, it's very important to note that the leaves, pods, and flowers of the true pea (Pisum sativum), and NOT the sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus). Sweet peas are NOT edible!
Asian grocery stores are your best bet for both, though pea sprouts are often found at well-stocked grocery stores and health stores.
Pea Tips: smaller and thinner = sweeter and more tender. This is one of those vegetables where more is not always best; larger tips and stems are very fibrous and do not cook up as well. Avoid overly wilted or droopy leaves and soggy looking stems.
Pea Shoots: simply ensure that they look fresh and vibrant, without signs of wilting or yellowing.
Difficulty: Low – Gently wash the greens and remove any damaged/wilted leaves. You may want to remove any particularly thick or tough stems or long tendrils from pea tips, but sprouts should require little or no picking over.
Pea tips and pea shoots can be eaten raw or cooked. Pea tips are more commonly cooked, while the sprouts are more commonly eaten raw.
Short Term: Refrigerate (unwashed, 2-4 days in a breathable plastic bag in the crisper)
Long Term: Not generally recommended, though pea tips can be blanched in boiling water for ~ 1 minute, drained and rinsed with cold water, then frozen.
Mild/Sweet/Green – Pea-like, with a green, grassy flavour a pleasant sweetness. Sprouts are a bit milder and sweeter than tips, with a less-pronounced ‘green’ flavour.
Pea sprouts and pea tips are relatively interchangeable with one another, but not many other foods can substitute for them because of their distinct pea-like flavour. Cooked spinach is fairly similar to cooked pea tips from a texture standpoint, but lacks the unique pea-like flavour.
Most commonly found in East Asian (and especially Chinese) cooking, pea tips and sprouts are nonetheless a welcome and easy addition to a wide variety of cuisines.
The sweet, distinct, and mild flavour of pea tips and sprouts is generally best when allowed to stand alone or with relatively minimal accompaniment. Garlic, ginger, sesame, and honey all make excellent accompaniments, though they’re all best used in moderation.
There isn’t much variation in commercial pea tips or sprouts, but it’s worth noting that pea tips can be harvested from any variety of garden pea (but NOT sweet peas). Most consider pea tips from snow pea plants to be superior, but it’s worth making use of any pea tips you can grow yourself, regardless of the variety.
NutritionExceptionally high in Vitamins A and C and very low in carbohydrates.Nutrition FactsSnow Pea Tips - 100 g (3.5 oz)Amount Per ServingCalories 18 Calories from Fat 9% Daily Value*Fat 1g2%Saturated Fat 0.1g1%Sodium 0.02mg0%Carbohydrates 0.2g0%Fiber 2g8%Protein 0.2g0%Vitamin A 2550IU51%Vitamin C 94.9mg115%* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Young pods and mature peas are, of course, also eaten. Click here to learn more about using snow pea pods. Pea flowers are also edible, but make sure you’re eating true pea (Pisum sativum) and not sweet pea (see Top-to-Tail note below for more information)
There are no GM or gene-edited snow peas in the human food supply.
Health & Science
– Exceptionally healthy and and nutrient-dense
– Peas and their relatives are extremely commonly used a variety of agricultural settings for their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. Bacterial associations with pea plant roots draw nitrogen from the air and convert it to a source that can be used by plants. This valuable ability can ‘recharge’ the nitrogen content of soil, thereby reducing the demand for fertilizers
Organic vs. Conventional
Both organic and conventionally grown pea sprouts are fairly common, though organic pea tips are harder to come by. Conventionally grown snow and snap pea pods have been flagged by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for having fairly high pesticide residues.