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

by Matt on January 18, 2011

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!

{ 5 trackbacks }

Tweets that mention Sauteed Pea Tendrils. Hello Spring, you're early. | --
January 18, 2011 at 6:40 am
baked potato soup | Rational Ovens
January 19, 2011 at 11:07 pm
baked potato soup | LoveTheJourney
January 19, 2011 at 11:53 pm
baked potato soup | Cooking & Baking
February 25, 2011 at 11:02 pm
Sauteéd Pea Tendrils from MattBites | Celiac Handbook
September 16, 2011 at 10:39 am

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

bianca January 18, 2011 at 7:01 am

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

Matt January 18, 2011 at 9:58 am

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.

noëlle {simmer down!} January 18, 2011 at 10:13 am

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.

Alexandra January 18, 2011 at 10:14 am

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??

Bekah January 18, 2011 at 10:30 am

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!

Vivilicious January 18, 2011 at 10:46 am

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!

Teri Y. January 18, 2011 at 11:25 am

Delicious! I’m pretty sure I’ve had this in Chinatown before…

The Teacher Cooks January 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm

You are so lucky to get all these good things to eat almost all year long in California. Great photos.

laura k January 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm

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. :-(

Kiran January 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Yum! My favorite Asian greens! I must say I use loads of garlic and it’s still a YUM!

Betty January 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm

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!

Nicole Franzen January 18, 2011 at 8:08 pm

is pea tendril the same as a pea shoot?

Siren January 18, 2011 at 8:36 pm

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!

Domestic Diva January 19, 2011 at 9:53 am

I’ve never even tried this,but ut seems like just the thing to do when you want a tasty side and your pressed for time.

Monica January 19, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Appetizing as always! Love when you have a new post! :)

Tara January 19, 2011 at 5:48 pm


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. :D

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!

Gaby January 19, 2011 at 9:29 pm

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!

zerrin January 20, 2011 at 2:43 am

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!

yasmin January 20, 2011 at 6:45 am

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!

Alicia January 20, 2011 at 7:30 am

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

Brian @ A Thought For Food January 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Everyone has been asking what foods to make to brighten things up during these dreary times. Well, I think you’ve found it!

tasteofbeirut January 20, 2011 at 6:52 pm

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.

Tina January 21, 2011 at 6:02 am

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.

Krystal January 21, 2011 at 8:48 am

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!

Allison January 21, 2011 at 8:55 am

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!

Rocky Mountain Woman January 21, 2011 at 11:38 am

Ok, go ahead, rub it in..make me feel bad as I look out at six feet of snow and spring is literally four more months away. It’s ok, I’m tough, I can take it…sniff sniff…

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate January 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm

I love pea pod shoots or pea tendrils as you call them. I’ve never been able to grow them and I’ve not seen them in the market. How lovely for you, thanks for sharing your early spring.

sciencegeek January 22, 2011 at 6:04 am

I will think of Spring and pea shoots as I sprinkle salt on my wounds/on the path.

Culinary Cory January 22, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Awesome picture. Sounds lovely.

foodie and the chef January 22, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Oh I have to wait until next Spring in Sydney for mine (I’m growing them in a little pot), your photos will make that an impatient wait I’m sure!

Cookin' Canuck January 22, 2011 at 9:28 pm

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!

Leah January 24, 2011 at 12:20 am

The pea tendrils seem awfully beautiful and tasty, stuck as I am in freezing winter. Enjoy your early spring!


Liz @ Butter and Onions January 24, 2011 at 8:50 am

I live in the South, so maybe there’s a chance I’ll see these at my market soon!

Mary January 24, 2011 at 10:20 pm

your photographs are simply amazing..

Barton January 25, 2011 at 9:14 pm

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

sienna January 31, 2011 at 9:25 am

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.

Chef Matt February 16, 2011 at 7:58 am

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!

Charles Belov October 1, 2013 at 10:15 pm

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.

Leave a Comment