Pea Shoot Pesto

Pea Shoot Pesto

During the season that I was an apprentice in the market garden at Shelburne Farms, my co-gardener, Mark, and I would often joke about all of the tiny vegetables we harvested that were never really allowed to reach their full potential. The baby carrots, baby beets, and mixed greens (aka baby lettuce) were made into sophisticated meals served to guests the dining room of the Inn overlooking Lake Champlain. It seemed funny that the smaller and younger the vegetable was, the more it was suited for fine dining.

I remembered this when I decided to harvest my pea shoots. I wasn’t trying to be fancy or to continue the trend of eating vegetables before they are close to fully grown, I just wanted something I could easily harvest from a window box on my porch. In April, I munched on a small bouquet of them garnishing a restaurant plate and realized how delightfully similar the plant tastes to its would be fruit.  Last year I let my pea shoots slowly extended their anemic stems and wary tendrils as they did their best to grow in the available patchy sun. Eventually they flowered and produced a few runty peas that would have been tossed aside in a proper garden. I loved them because they grew for me, but it seemed futile to try to grow peas in a window box again.

Pea shoots, though, were easy to grow. They sound a little frivolous, but they taste just as humble and green as the pods. In the last two weeks I have nibbled on this leafier version of peas and added some to a salad alongside lettuce and radishes. The delicate shoots were on the verge of becoming vines when I decided it was time to give them more of starring role in a dish. I made them into a pesto, using flavors that gently complement and enhance the earthy green-ness of the the peas. I stirred it into a risotto topped with some fresh pea shoots, but you could use it with pasta, as a sauce or any other way you enjoy pesto and the flavor of fresh peas.

Pea Shoot Pesto

2 cups, packed, pea shoots
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil

Place the pea shoots, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice and parmesan in the bowl of a food processor. Process until it forms a rough paste. Pour in the olive oil and process until it forms a spreadable paste or add more oil for a pourable sauce. Add salt and adjust seasonings to taste.




  1. emily

    May 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Wow… I wonder if your co-gardener Mark is the same Mark I know! Small world, if that is the case. I actually went to a New Year's party he hosted while living at Shelburne Farms… so maybe, just maybe we've actually been introduced before! I won't write his last name here (people can be funny about that), but does is it Italian sounding and does it start with a C?

    You never know what you'll find in the blogosphere.

    Anyway, the pea shoot pesto sounds great. Our CSA starts soon, and maybe we'll get some pea shoots. We are growing sugar snap peas in our own garden, but we love the final product too much to stop in in-process.


  2. Anna

    May 22, 2012 at 12:05 am

    I do believe it is the same fellow! I guess it is a very small world 🙂 I haven't seen him in years, but I enjoyed working with him. I wish sugar snaps would grow better on my porch, but I'm making the best of what I've got.

  3. emily

    May 22, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Yeah, he is a great guy. Now he & M have 3 kids (including twins!). I haven't seen him in years, but now and then we are in touch. I worked with him in the Adirondacks many years ago.

  4. Anna

    May 22, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    If you are ever in touch, please tell him I say hello! I knew they were having twins, but that was a while ago. Thanks for the update and finding this connection!

  5. city

    May 24, 2012 at 8:46 am

    nice opinion.. thanks for posting.

  6. city

    May 24, 2012 at 8:48 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Caro

    June 6, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Does arugula pesto exist? Have you tried making it? Would love to see a feature on many kinds of pesto… Also, one of my roommates just made smoked Chipotle butter. It was delicious. Have you made sweet / savory butters in the past?

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