What’s the Difference Between Pea Sprouts, Pea Shoots, and Pea Greens?

Go beyond the pod and take advantage of the various parts of a pea plant.

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The spring and early summer is prime time to celebrate peas: In addition to English peas, snow peas, and sugar snap peas, farmers’ and specialty markets increasingly sell the sprouts, shoots, and leaves of the pea plant. The greens are typically harvested from the sugar snap pea plant, though the greenery from all varieties of peas is edible. 

These greens can be enjoyed at every stage of their development as they mature from tender shoots that taste of sweet peas to heartier leaves with a grassier flavor. Here’s a guide for what to expect, along with some suggestions for easy ways to enjoy them.


When a pea is sown in soil, it germinates, sending out a single shoot tipped with a pair of leaves called cotyledons. If it’s harvested before it gets any new leaves, when it’s just 1 to 2 inches long, it’s called a sprout, and the entire seed and its sprout is consumed. (Once it gets a pair of true leaves, it’s considered to have graduated from sprouthood.)  

What Do Pea Sprouts Taste Like? 

Pea sprouts are mild with a subtle pea flavor.

How to Eat Pea Sprouts  

Enjoy pea sprouts on sandwiches or burgers or in salads.


These shoots with rounded, bright green leaves and hollow stems topped with coiled tendrils are harvested from the first several inches of the pea plant’s growth. 

What Do Pea Shoots Taste Like? 

Pea shoots are tender and juicy, with a fresh, sweet flavor.

How to Eat Pea Shoots 

Delicate pea shoots can be used as an attractive garnish for just about anything or as a supporting green in salads.

For a substantial side dish or light main course, we like to combine wispy pea tendrils with a hearty grain such as spelt and other complementary items. In our Spelt Salad with Pickled Fennel, Pea Greens, and Mint, earthy, nutty spelt provides the perfect foil for these sweet greens, along with pops of brightness from quick pickles and herbal notes from the mint. Click here for the recipe.


The leaves and stems of young pea greens are slightly more substantial than shoots.

What Do Young Pea Greens Taste Like? 

Young pea greens have a flavor that’s similar to pea shoots: They are sweet and pealike.

How to Eat Young Pea Greens 

Tender pea greens make a wonderful salad green. We find it best to pair them with delicate vinaigrettes instead of rich and creamy dressings, which mute their flavor and weigh them down. 

For a special springtime salad, we like to combine pea greens with fresh peas. In our Pea Green Salad with Warm Apricot-Pistachio Vinaigrette, we start by steaming fresh peas in a skillet until they’re just tender and then set them aside and use the the same skillet to build a warm vinaigrette of toasted nuts, shallots, dried apricots, mustard, and white wine vinegar. The last step is to simply toss the vinaigrette with the pea greens, cooked peas, and a bit of Belgian endive for crunch. Click here for the recipe.


Mature pea greens have thick leaves with hollow stems. 

What Do Mature Pea Greens Taste Like? 

These greens have a heartier, grassy flavor that fades slightly with cooking.

How to Eat Mature Pea Greens

Substitute mature pea greens for basil to make pesto or briefly sauté them in extra-virgin olive oil with minced garlic. Cook them quickly (for about 2 minutes) to retain their bright color and avoid overcooking them, which will cause the leaves to disintegrate. They will wilt to about one-third of their uncooked volume.

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