What's in season

Spring for Pea Tendrils

Put springtime on the plate with earthy, flavorful green shoots

Illustration: John Burgoyne

The first time Davis Hood heard about pea tendrils, he was working at a restaurant near his hometown of Isle of Palms, South Carolina. “Our chef brought them into the kitchen, and the vibrant green color immediately caught my eye,” he says. “I asked him what they were and why he was using them. His simple answer was ‘They taste like spring.’” Seventeen years later, as the executive chef of Sullivan’s Fish Camp right down the road on Sullivan’s Island, Hood still gets excited when his kitchen gets a delivery of fresh shoots. “It is indeed our sign that spring has sprung.”

The young, tender shoots of the pea plant, tendrils have a sweet, earthy flavor—somewhere between a pea and spinach—and you can eat the leaves, blossoms, and crunchy hollow stems that curl up the trellis. Just treat them like any other leafy green vegetable by mixing them into stir-fries, wilting them into soups, or simply sautéeing them with garlic for an easy side. If Hood is prepping them, you’re most likely to find them raw in a salad (see recipe) paired with another star of spring: radish. “What grows together, goes together,” he says. “A salad with tendrils and shaved radish goes really well with any seafood—soft-shell crab, a fillet of mild white flaky fish such as flounder or mahi mahi, or even crab cakes.” If you’re growing the shoots yourself, harvest them when they’ve climbed twelve to eighteen inches. (Tip: To send an extra punch of pea flavor to the tendrils, pinch off a few blooms when they first emerge.) Pea shoots are also available fresh at grocery stores (look for them near other microgreens) and farmers’ markets throughout spring. The tendril coils should be bright green and springy, with no dark or slimy spots. “When fresh, they are truly a beautiful item,” Hood says. “To me there is no more iconic spring produce.”

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  • Pea Tendril Salad with Honey-Thyme Vinaigrette (Yield: 2 to 4 servings)

    • 2 cups pea tendrils, gently washed

    • 3 radishes, shaved

    • ½ shallot, chopped

    • 2 lemons, zested and juiced

    • 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard

    • 4 tbsp. honey

    • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

    • 6 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped

    • 6 sprigs parsley, leaves removed and chopped

    • 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine pea tendrils and radishes. Place shallot, lemon juice and zest, Dijon mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, thyme leaves, and parsley leaves in a blender. Blend until smooth. Then, with blender on low, slowly add olive oil until well combined. Drizzle pea tendrils and radishes with 2 tbsp. vinaigrette. Refrigerate remaining dressing in a sealed jar.