May 21, 2012
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.