Sauteéd Pea Tendrils. Hello Spring, you’re early.

Sometimes I feel like I live in a parallel universe. This universe is called California. While social media allows me to check in with friends from all over the place, hearing tales of snowstorms and shoveling during January just makes me feel even stranger, especially when it’s 82 degrees and I’m in shorts at the beach. And no, I’m so not complaining!

No where is this sensation more amplified than when I hit the farmers’ market.  You’d think after 15 years of happy California Livin’ I’d be used to this by now. Nope, I am not. There are still many head-scratching moments as I walk down the aisle of my farmers’ market looking at stacks of winter produce, berries, greens, and those sneaky little things that find life when all signs should be pointing to dormancy. But if it grows I’ll eat it, and for this I’m happy for mild California weather.

Last week while photographing an assignment I came across pea tendrils, those little young curly shoots and leaves of the pea plant that normally pop up during Spring. Ok, so they decided to make an appearance a bit early, I’m cool with that. With 70 and 80 degree weather after plenty of rain I shouldn’t be surprised. But I felt as if I was shopping in a dream, a place where I could have almost anything I wanted, and this jolt of early spring seemed to come out of nowhere.

Is it too early to be hoping for summer now?

Sauteed Pea Tendrils
This is my favorite thing to do with these little babies. And by “do” I mean “not much”. You’ll only need a few ingredients and because it’s so simple I’ll leave the measurements up to you. I like to add a hint of garlic to the pea tendrils but because their flavor is so subtle I try not to overpower them.

Pea tendrils, a handful or so, rinsed and chopped into 2 inch pieces or so
Some olive oil
Garlic clove, cut in half
A sprinkle of sea salt
Chili flakes, if you like heat

Rinse and chop the pea tendrils. I like a rough chop as I like to see the little curlies in the final dish. In a skillet heat a little bit of olive oil and the garlic halves until the aroma and essence of the garlic is released; remove the garlic clove from the pan and save for later if you’d like. Add the chopped tendrils and sauté until they cook slightly, how long will be up to you. But for pete’s sake, don’t overdo it, you want them barely wilted and still flavorful and crunchy!  Serve with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt and maybe chili flakes if you want a little bit of heat. But like the garlic don’t overdo it!


  1. bianca says

    Your photographs are amazing! Is that a table cloth that you have used for the background or sheets of coloured paper? Wow!

  2. Matt says

    Thank you Bianca! It’s actually a painted surface like a tabletop. I do use sheets of paper on occasion unless I need a large area of coverage.

  3. says

    I bought pea shoots for the first time from the farmers’ market last summer and prepared them much like you describe, but some of the tendrils were inedibly tough! Any suggestions? They looked just like the ones in your photo… I don’t know if they were just too mature or what.

  4. Alexandra says

    Sigh… just moved back to cold Europe after 4 years in Los Angeles (Topanga Canyon) – and boy, do I miss this parallel universe. Miss, badly, as in daydream-myself-back-to-Cali – all the time. Gone are the days where I got to stroll the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, mid-December, in t-shirt, flip-flops, sunglasses! It used to make me so happy that I had kept repeating to my poor boyfriend, mantra-like: “Oh my gosh, it is December! Deee-cem-beeer!! Can you beliiiiieve it?!”
    Root vegetables, I am so done with you!
    This year, the green card lottery will be working out for me, yes??

  5. says

    It does seem like spring is early. I just got back from being outside and noticed for the first time that the trees have blooms on them and smell amazing. This is my first January in Cali and I’m loving it. The pinks and blues and greens in your photos look just how I feel. Thanks!

  6. Vivilicious says

    Yum, one of my favourite veg. In Chinese restaurants these babies are called dou miao and sautéed with garlic and superior chicken stock, with a dash of sesame oil. Even my toddlers will eat these ;-). Gorgeous photos and styling of course!

  7. says

    Sigh. I’ve been having the crazy homesickness for California lately, and this just intensified it. I’m stuck in the land of frozen vegetables and potatoes for another 4 or 5 months, at least. :-(

  8. Betty says

    6 more inches of snow here…I am placated, but only barely, by the thought that somewhere buried underneath all that snow are my very own pea tendrils, waiting patiently, just for me. In the meantime, it’s pass the Vodka.

    Just lovely photos, too. It’s easy to see why you’re the professional. They’re not just pictures, they’re art. And I adore the little wooden salad utensils!

  9. says

    THANK YOU for posting this! For the last two years, I have not successfully grown pea, (they would not flower – I planted them too late) but I did get tendrils! Well now I know what I should have done with them. :) p.s. I love your blog!

  10. Tara says


    I just recently found your blog and I’m hooked. Your photos are beautiful, and I love your writing! And those pea tendrils look so yummy… *mouth waters*. The farmers I work for at the Santa Monica Farmers Market just got their pea tendrils in last week… I wonder if you got them from us. 😀

    Anyhow, they are sooo good. I find that they get tougher the longer you cook them, so I like to eat mine raw or barely cooked, but I like the idea of the chili flakes… thanks for that!

  11. says

    omg if spring came early – that means your book is almost out – which means I need to get my butt into party planning mode – woooohooo!!!! yay!

  12. says

    It is still very cold here in Turkey and it might snow in a few days or so. I definitely envy you! I am a big fan of herbs, but never seen pea tendrils here. They look so cute with curls. I often do a similar thing with other herbs. Just boil it a few minutes, then add lemon, olive oil and chili mixture. I love the way you use garlic in this recipe. You just add the essence. I will try this method with herbs as soon as Spring comes here. Hope I can see pea tendrils at our local market too!

  13. says

    pea shoots are my absolute favourite green. ok at least for stir frying! like you, i keep it simple. i use a tiny splash of chinese cooking wine like i do with most asian greens, just adds a taste i love. so glad i popped by here. i’m on my way to chinatown now and these are going at the top of the list!

  14. Alicia says

    I love the simplicity of this recipe–it sounds delish–and your photos are more beautiful by the minute.

  15. says

    These pea tendrils look lovely; the way you prepared them is very similar to the way greens are cooked in Lebanese cuisine, with lots of garlic, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon at the end.

  16. says

    Hi there, a friend who has been reading and attempting your recipes for a while shared this blog to me and it is so useful. The recipes themselves and the images are fantastic. I am looking forward to go over all your blog post.

  17. says

    Oh yum, these look fantastic. I love living in Socal, and enjoying the 70 to 80 degree weather in January. It really makes me appreciate that I live here, and can’t wait to enjoy a nice bike ride outside to the beach this weekend. I might have to find those pea tendrils at the farmers market, too!

  18. Allison says

    siiiigh, so jealous. Those look delicious. Our farmer’s markets here in New Jersey are snow covered and contain little but stayman apples, farm eggs, and honey. Those things are delicious, but I can’t wait for the growing season to start here!

  19. says

    Yep, I’m pretty sure we won’t be seeing these babies at our snow-covered farmer’s market for at least three months. However, I am bookmarking this for when they make an appearance. Beautiful, simple recipe!

  20. says

    Wow, have been looking forward to spring veggies but was thinking I had a couple more month waiting. I think I coming round to Cali living. Just relocated to the SF Bay area. I’ll join the crowds screaming it , great food, photos and writing

  21. says

    I am an east sider so I rarely make the trek to the Santa Monica Farmer’s but holy moly is it worth it. The produce at the Wednesday market is almost other worldly. Plus I found a pretzel there as big as my head and that made me very very happy.

  22. says

    Pea Tendrils are an amazing ingredient. I love them not only sauteed on their own – but also sauteed with fresh garlic greens. The flavors compliment each other beautifully.

    But these babies are great raw as well – right on top of fried chicken with a lemon-honey glaze. Yum!

  23. says

    I feel odd commenting on a two-year-old post but I just ran across it.

    Hmm, I too am not sure about pea shoots vs. pea tendrils. But as for the question about them being tough…Many years ago you could only get them 2 months out of the year and only at Hong Kong style Chinese restaurants and you had to know the Cantonese words for it, and the dau miu would be so tender and delicious and we would get them as often as we could. Then at some point they started raising them year round and translating it and it started turning up in California cuisine and suddenly they were pea shoots and they got tougher. Mass production = less wonderful dau miu. I still like them, but they’re not as special as they used to be and now I can’t remember the last time I had it, which was probably within the last 5 years.


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