Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pea Greens- a sweet sign of spring!

When I used to live in San Francisco I shopped almost weekly at the Alemany Farmer’s Market. I enjoyed this market in particular because it is inexpensive, wide open with lots of vendors and not as well polished as other city markets. At various stands on any given day I could choose between some 20 different varieties of dried fruits, fresh nuts, jams and breads or eat a tamale or two while I watch the market unfold. As the Alemany market serves the diverse Asian and Latino ethnic populations of San Francisco, it carries many exciting foods that you would not find at your average grocery store or even farmer’s market. One of my favorite finds from a few springs back are fresh sweet pea shoots. Usually available are the fresh clippings of pea vines that are still young, before it is warm enough for the plants to flower and bear those sweet pea pods! In northern California our early February spring is the time for these sweet green beauties, another of the many things to look foreword to as the days get longer!

Although I no longer live in San Francisco, I try and visit the Alemany market whenever I can. This past Saturday I went with a friend who was just beginning a five-day raw foods cleanse. We both bought sweet pea greens. I have been enjoying my greens so much I wanted to share them here, and in honor of the raw and the cooked I have included two very simple recipes for sweet pea greens, a sauté and a salad.

While little compares to the freshness of market greens, you may also be able to find sweet pea shoots or sprouts in some natural food or Asian food stores. Keep your eyes open…and ask around.

Sweet and Salty Pea Green Sauté

This simple sauté is a great accompaniment to meals or served with grains or potatoes as a meal in itself. Pea greens are also great in soups or added to more complex stir-fries.

1 Tbs. Butter
4 oz. fresh sweet pea greens
fresh ground black pepper
salt to taste

Wash pea greens and break or cut into bite sized pieces, about 1 inch long. You may include the stems, which are very tender when cooked. In a skillet melt butter and add a few twists of black pepper. Once the pepper starts to cook and simmer add the sweet pea shoots, it is okay if there is excess water on the greens, it will help them cook. Sauté on medium high heat, stirring often until greens are wilted and tender but still bright green. Salt generously and serve hot. 4 oz. of pea greens will make two small servings or one more substantial serving, they are often sold in half pound (8 oz.) bunches.

Sweet Pea and Potato Salad

Raw sweet potato has a beautiful nutty and creamy flavor and while it doesn't have as much fat, its flavor begins to rival avocado if you are doing the raw food thing!

4 oz. fresh sweet pea greens
½ small sweet potato, grated (skin is okay)
½ lemon, juiced
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. ground coriander
salt to taste
Garnish with black pepper.

Wash pea greens, shake off as much excess water as possible and break into bite size pieces, removing any tough stem. In a large bowl toss pea greens with grated sweet potato so that they are well mixed. Add coriander, salt (start with ½ tsp. and add more if necessary), lemon juice and olive oil and toss well. You can also add chopped walnut (¼-½ cup) if you would like to make the salad more substantial. This recipe will make two medium sized servings.

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